Friday, December 19, 2008

Benefits worth it to make Elite qualification before year end?

It’s nearing the end of the year and may be worth squeezing in a last flight to make the elite qualification because it is based on the calendar year (January 1 - December 31). Remember that you need ELITE miles not bonus miles.

Flew to SFO but a lot of unseasoned travelers are in the air this week before Christmas, so it is a mess at the airport with temper fuses very low.5 hour delays in New York.... The San Francisco flights on CO are all overbooked this week and I saw people getting ugly for a seat so it may not be worth it to make that flight.
Continental airlines gives Silver Elite to passengers flying 25,000 Elite qualification miles or 30 points GOLD needs 50,000 miles and Platinum needs 75,000 elite qualification miles.
The American Airlines, AAdvantage Executive Platinum requirement is fly 100 Elite qualifying segments or 100,000 miles. It may be worth taking advantage of an offer for example; -
AA has a December fare sale to fly from Washington Reagan Nat'l, DC to Cancun, Mexico for only $101.
The 2008 AAdvantage Executive Platinum requirement is fly 100 Elite qualifying segments or 100,000 miles.
One of the best benefits is SkyTeam Partner Lounge Access, available to One Pass Plat members with SkyTeam Alliance Partners:

Aeroflot , AeroMéxico , Air France ,Alitalia ,China Southern Airlines, CSA CzechAirlines, Delta Air Lines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, Northwest

Pity the best airline lounge is not part of the Sky Team or part of the One World Alliance. Virgin Atlantics new clubhouse is the best, - with a waterside in the Poolside Lounge where you can unwind and forget that you’re at an airport.
The OneworldAlliace, AAdvantage Executive Platinum members get oneworld Emerald status, which is recognized by all ten member airlines:

AmericanAirlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, JAL, LAN, Malev Quantas and Royal Jordanian.

Benefits with this group, include access on the day of travel to the First Class lounges, when traveling internationally, plus priority services.
All levels of One Pass elite get preferred economy class seating on Continental flights but not on Sky Team. But the truth is that the "preferred status is not handed out generously because each airline likes to look after their own customers first and also because they are too big to treat us well unless you work for a company with alot of clout.

Miles and More Senator status is like gold elite in other programs(100,000 / 130,000 status miles in a given calendar year to qualify) - and their highest is HON CIRCLE Members needing 600,000 HON Circle miles.

The Star Alliance members are:

Air Canada Air China Air New Zealand, ANA Asiana Airlines, Austrian bmi EgyptAir, LOT Polish Airlines,Scandinavian Airlines Shanghai Airlines Singapore Airlines,South African Airways Spanair Portugal ,THAI,Turkish Airlines, United,US Airways, Lufthansa, South African Airways.

Star Alliance Gold Customers Travelling in Any Class have access to any Star Alliance member carriers' owned lounges with the Star Alliance Gold logo at the entrance. United and US Airways Star Alliance Gold customers are only eligible for lounge access when travelling in conjunction with a Star Alliance international flight. Lufthansa’s a Miles & More members and Lufthansa International First Class Customers have access to International First Class and/or any Star Alliance member carriers' own lounges but you would probably be a paid lounge member if you fly that much because seasoned travelers don’t buy first class tickets often.

I did buy a first class ticket last month because the difference between first and economy was only about $50 but that does not happen very often. I prefer to take my chances on an upgrade since that is the main reason that I strive for elite status.

I am elite but have had a middle seat on Continental because you have to be ticketed in J/D/Z/C/A/Y class of service to qualify for their "No Middle Seat" Guarantee.

"No Middle Seat" Guarantee: To ensure a comfortable flight they will guarantee that you receive a window or aisle seat in Economy Class if you are not upgraded to the front cabin when you purchase a full fare on Continental Airlines and Continental Micronesia operated flights. CO will automatically reward One Pass
members with 2,500 OnePass miles if they do sit in a middle seat.
So it depends on the fine print. –‘Not fun reading the fine print and searching for the ticketed letter when squashed in a middle seat.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter Wonderland in Germany

Nothing like a huge Christmas tree and a nativity scene with live animals, to put everybody in the Christmas mood.
I think that Spandau is the largest European Christmas market. It has a wonderful atmosphere of Christmas cheer. The Spandau “Altstadt” is still steeped in centuries of traditions in evidence visable the old part of the city. It is a borough (Bezirk) of Berlin along the western bank of the Havel River.
The market is full of art, culture, crafts, food and street vendors peddling all kinds of interesting wares This year it is held from November 26 until December 23. The entrance of the upscale department store KaDeWe (Kaufhaus Des Westens) was spectacularly decorated for the festivities.
Visitors swarm along the 200 market stalls in the area of the Carl-Schurz-Stasse and during the advents weekend the number of stands in the “Altstadt” reach around 400 booths. Santa visits the market every afternoon and there are free shows on the podium. Unter de Linden trees (where the trees are not linden trees) is beautifully lit, this year,.. and don’t miss the Alexander Platz decorations.
Honingmond Hotel Altstadt Spandau is closest to the Xmas market action. They have doublé rooms for 80 Euros but I prefer the modern bathrooms at the Crowne Plaza Berlin. The CrownePlaza is hotel is located in the heart of the city of Berlin, in proximity to Kurfürstendamm, the renowned Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtniskirche (memorial church), the KaDeWe shopping mall. Olympic stadium and the zoo. Another Spandau hotel is the Hotel Altstadt Wasserstr . It lies beside the river Spree within the district's picturesque Old Town.
If you have rented a car, it is convenient to park at the Courtyard Berlin Teltow on Warthestrasse (west of the city) but when I stay at the full Marriott Berlin in the center, I prefer to rely on public transport.

Get into the Christmas spirit at The Westin Grand, Berlin in the heart of Germany´s capital – where the historic boulevard Unter den Linden meets the Friedrichstrasse. They have a Winterzauber (winter Package) can be booked with a rate plan WMTRMNG for EUR 187.75 for 2 nights with breakfast AND a 48 hours City Card for free use of public transport but be sure to ask for a newly decorated room. It is a SPG Category 4 presently, but I like it best. A 5-minute walk takes you to the underground and S-Bahn stations, which connects you to the whole city.
Don’t be afraid of getting lost because it is such a cosmopolitan city, full of expats that you can always ask directions in English.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Eat snake in the Old Wild West - Arizona

Eat snake in the old wild west Rawhide Western Town & Steakhouse.
The only other place that I said “no thank you” to snake was in China.To really experience the Old West cowboy era you must visit Rawhide Western Town & Steakhouse at Wild Horse Pass Blvd • Chandler, Arizona. The steakhouse has rattle snake and Rocky Mountain oysters on the menu.
I won’t explain what they are, but hint … is that they are not from the ocean but are from a bull’s underside. The town is an authentic replica of an 1880's frontier town located near the SPG resort grounds. Both the Hotel Casino and the Steakhouse are owned by the Indian Community but you can’t sign charges to your room.
Stroll through Rawhide’s Main Street and enjoy attractions such as live cowboy stunt shows and feel like you are part of a cowboy movie, get photos with the stagecoach, mechanical bull, (didn’t ride it). I am a coward but I get the “been there” photos.Rawhide Western Town & Steakhouse at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort has a great Spa. Expensive, but prices are par for AZ.I try the spa at every port and my visit to the Aji Spa was quite a different experience, the Watsu Pool. And native treatments were a nice touch. My spa therapist was not Indian but knew their treatments well. This world-class spa offers native treatments for the mind, body, and soul that have been used for hundreds of years on the sacred grounds of the Gila River Indian Community. Guests can be picked up along the banks of the river by stagecoaches and wagons and splash across the river to the Koli Equestrian Center for riding lessons and trail rides. Or enjoy one or all of the four outdoor pools and spectacular waterslide. Take a scenic boat ride from just off the lobby to the Whirlwind Golf Clubhouse and two 18-hole championship golf courses are surrounded by the spectacular mountains and desert.When we checked in the front desk allocated our room and said that we should drive around to park next to the Spa building but they don’t have an elevator so I hurt my back lugging luggage up the stairs and really needed the massage at the spa. The Masseuse was wonderful.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Why is it that the price of oil is down and airfare is up? Hedging apart...
Deregulation was great while it lasted but now we are going back to a few unionized airlines.
Delta Air Lines and Northwest closed their $3.2 billion merger deal, which means greater seat capacity cuts and firmer airfare prices across the industry. At last check, the Amex Airline Index rose. Delta and Northwest have created the world's largest airline by traffic. The other four remaining legacy carriers will be able to offer fewer benefits for small business travelers as well. Prices increase, as inventory tightens so loyalty programs will be worthless to the little guy. Unless you are with a big company or are in the sky (on the road), 90% of your life, you may as well forget trying to rack up elite miles because the airlines are too big and they know that we have to fly the airline with a hub near our homes. They can treat us as they wish because we will have no choice.
The combination of Delta and Northwest will replace American Airlines AMR Corporation from its position as the No. 1 U.S. airline and will be a challenge to the world's largest, AIR France-KLM.
What will happen to fares and service after the merger?
When Northwest emerged from bankruptcy in 2007 they had a lot of service problems because they had let a lot of staff go and this led to flight cancellations and problems with the unions. United Airlines also had problems when they wanted to combine with US airways so they had to cancel the merger. Lost luggage and flight departure problems were the carrier’s downfall.
Routes with competition offer the best prices and service, but now that many airlines are going bankrupt or merging, we will be at the mercy of a few airlines. Deregulation has led to the same situation that deregulation was supposed to prevent.

Southwest keeps fares down and I am glad that they will get bankrupt ATA airlines air slots for NYC La Guardia airport next year because low fare airlines like Southwest, keep fares low. Virgin Atlantic is concerned that British Airways and AA are trying to get anti-trust immunity granted so that the two airlines would be permitted to fix ticket prices and schedules. British Airways, the powerful global airline, is kept in check with Virgins expansion.
Both Delta and Northwest are members of SkyTeam, so your elite miles should still be valid on the new system. It is not clear how they will handle the Lifetime Elite Status.
My co-worker has a million miles on UA United Airlines and will be awarded lifetime status and is concerned about changes in the industry. Continental Airlines is reported to have held talks with both United Airlines and A Americans AMR Corp.
US Airways will keep The Million mile mark that customers attained before the merger in May of 2006. These passengers attained a million miles and are able to retain this status but no new members can qualify. The highest elite status is the a Chairman’s Preferred membership achieved with 100,000 miles or 120 segments a year.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Delta expanding in Latin America and Caribbean

Love to experience the beautiful white sand beaches of the true tropical paradise in Dominican Republic - Punta Cana.
Delta Air Lines Inc. is expanding in Latin America and the Caribbean, including nine new flights and increased seasonal schedules to six warm destinations starting in December. In addition, expanded seasonal schedules will start between Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and six Caribbean destinations: Aruba (second daily flight); George Town, Cayman Islands (second Saturday flight); Montego Bay, Jamaica (third daily flight); Providenciales; Turks and Caicos (second Saturday flight); Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (second daily flight); and St. Maarten (second Saturday flight). Delta also will add one year-round frequency to its existing schedule between Atlanta and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

I like Raddison because of their Sleep number beds but dont know if they have them in Dom Rep because they don't have them in Bogota Columbia. The Raddison has a 3 Night Package w/ Air FROM Houston (HOU) starting at $799 Details at
And Barcelo Punta Cana has an offer in the Dominican Republic for $59: PLUS GUARANTEED ROOM UPGRADE Reg. $78 pp/pn NOW ONLY $59Valid on Travel 11/01 - 12/23 Barcelo Punta Cana - All Inclusive
Enjoyable first class Punta Cana fishing in the Dominican Republic while you catch big Atlantic Blue Marlin, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and many other big game sport fishing of the region. Golf is great too.
I enjoy the cobblestone streets and late medieval architecture while staying at the Courtyard Santo Domingo The Marriott Courtyard is within walking distance to the National Theater, the US Embassy and within easy access to Santo Domingo's Colonial zone attractions and the main business area.
Aruba - The Famous Caribbean destination for sun soaked beaches but also infamous after Natalee went missing on Aruba.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Virgin Atlantic XMAS in the best Lounge (has a Spa)

Virgin Atlantic has an offer for Christmas Flights from the USA to London for:
Economy from $198*Premium Economy from $410*Upper Class from $999*

I hope that Virgin will survive. They have the best Lounge in the world and offer amazing service on their first class overseeas flights. BA and AA are trying for a third time to get anti-trust immunity granted so that the two airlines would be permitted to fix ticket prices and schedules. Virgin Atlantic is a British airline which is owned by Richard Branson's Virgin Group (51%) and Singapore Air.

I have always appreciated their driviers in Range Rovers picking me up for a flight and getting my hair cut in the airline lounge.
Whether you arrive by their Chauffeur driven car or are checked in at ther main terminal, you'll be whizzed through a new Private Security Channel and relaxing in the comfort of our award-winning Clubhouse in next to no time.
Their new TV ad featuring John Hannah, star of movies including The Mummy, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Sliding Doors. The ad focuses on the concept of time and how precious it is, especially for business travelers. He takes us on a journey through the Upper Class experience, which defines just how effortless travel can be.Drive Thru service you’ll be able to check in without leaving the luxury of your Chauffeur driven car at the new Upper Class Wing.Your bags are whisked away and you’ll be handed your boarding pass. Then you can breeze through Virgin Atlantic’s new Private Security Channel leaving you free to enjoy the many delights of our Clubhouse. If you'd prefer to minimise your time at the airport you can arrive as late as 40 minutes before departure and go straight through our Private Security Channel to the boarding gate. I would not try this with any other airline.
Their Upper Class Check In desks within the main terminal are fast and they have a priority lift (elevator) to then take you straight through to the new Private Security Channel, meaning you'll be enjoying a cocktail in the Clubhouse within a short time of arriving at the airport. Alternatively, if you'd prefer to minimize your time at the airport then you can check in as late as 40 minutes before departure and go straight through our Private Security Channel to the boarding gate.Plus if you're an ELITE Flying Club Gold member you and a guest can enjoy the Private Security Channel, even if you're flying in Premium Economy or Economy.
Poolside lounge suspended from the ceiling are clear acrylic chairs in the form of a bubble that add a playful fun atmosphere to the waterside in the Poolside Lounge where you can unwind and forget that you’re at an airport. They even have a roof top garden where you can sunbathe or go inside to use the tanning booth.
In the Den you can play pool or try your hand on the retro video games consoles.
In the “cowgroom” you can have treatments including facials, massages manicures, pedicures or a wet shave for men, designed to leave you with a feeling of Zen. Dip in the hydro spa pool and relax in the sauna.
Easy to forget that you are at an airport and that life is great!

Monday, November 24, 2008

From Bora Bora and Bogota to Barcelona, all-inclusive

All inclusive packages are on the rise now due to European mass travel. Even Luxury resorts like Starwood’s Bora Bora Nui resort now offers all meals and activities included in the rate.
The Dominican Republic hotel – Paradisus Palma Real offers complimentary liquor drinks, food, activities included in the daily rate. This makes sense if you order a Pina Colada at the swim up bar while submerged in the pool on concrete furniture, but in general, I don’t like the trend towards all-inclusive rates. It has never been in place at luxury hotels or resorts, except Le Méridien hotels.

Reminds me too much of the dreadful hotels in Russia 25 years ago. I never book package trips because quality suffers if you pre-pay.
Le Méridien, Barcelona SPAIN, is offering an inclusive experience on the famous Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s iconic boulevard of leisure and entertainment where Le Méridien Barcelona is situated. It is the city’s artistic and commercial hub. The hotel offers easy access to Barcelona’s harbour, Barrio Gotic , El Liceo Opera Theatre, museums, and restaurants. Overlooking the famed Las Ramblas, the hotel’s restaurant and bar, Cent Onze, is a wonderful place to relax and listen to live jazz. They have a package Rate Plan; ROMLMD but most rates do not include lunch or dinner.
I usually buy my air tickets directly on the airline website because they offer higher points than if you buy through a travel agent and in addition I get 5 dollars per ticket with Continentals Travelbank.
Travelocity has a great deal for $450.00 US Dollars you can fly to The Dominican Republic for a 4-night getaway with all meals & flight included. Another offer this week is a Bahamas Cruise with Royal Caribbean ships for $119.00: Bahamas for a December cruise in the Caribbean. Ocean view Cabins are ten dollars more ($129 )….Am thinking of taking a cheap break with this Travelocity deal where I will deviate from my standard booking process.
The Dominican Republic getaway with all meals & flight included is a trend that is coming back. Even some upscale hotels are offering all meals included. I suppose this is due to the weak dollars influx of European travelers.

I booked a room at the Sheraton Bogota on the Starwood website and got a quote for a room with no mention of breakfast included. This is never my concern because I always know that I can get free breakfast in the Concierge Club lounge but it turned out that EVERYONE staying at the hotel gets breakfast in the restaurant. Not exclusively to elites … Strange that they did not mention this on the SPG website. Many people making a web reservation would not guess that the hotel offers complimentary breakfast and also a complementary airport shuttle. I did not think it was an airport hotel so organized a driver to pick me up since security is a concern. Each hotel sends a reminder email out confirming the reservation and asking if there is anything that they can do to make the stay more comfortable and it would be nice if it had relevant info on the hotel in place of weather or local stuff that I could look up on the Weather channel if I desired.

The Bora Bora St. Regis resort is the chain's most famous. One reason is that it's where Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban had their honeymoon.

Sponsor ...............
Promociones especiales y ofertas de viajes en Miami Beach Y BARCELONA:
Cuentan con una mayor y más confortable capacidad con una maravillosa vista al mar. disfrutar de piscina en la excitante South Beach de Florida con paquete, el cual incluye: Lujosas habitaciones con vista al mar , Desayuno para dos, Dos lujosas toallas de piscina de souvenir, Dos exclusivos cócteles “pama mojito” servidos al lado de la piscine. Asegúrese de mencionar el código promocional P53.
En Barcelona, España, no encontrará nada mejor que disfruta de las tapas y sangría típicas de España. a la ciudad mediterránea de Barcelona, el Renaissance Barcelona Airport Hotel le brindará servicios y comodidades de primera clase CON 3 NOCHES POR EL PRECIO DE 2.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Update - 2,000 Marriott point bonus for The Luggage Club

In my last post I elaborated on my threat to resort to dressing in layers as a human equivalent of a Russian stacking doll, due to the trend towards charging for bags,- but I won’t have to.-Thanks to partnerships with Luggage Forward service, Marriott and Starwood’s Signature Travel Service. United's new service, Door-to-Door Baggage, enables customers in the continental U.S. to conveniently ship their suitcases, or other travel items like skis or golf clubs, overnight from a home or office directly to their destination within the 48 contiguous United States. At $149 one way for flights less than 1,000 miles.
As a Marriott Rewards Elite member and frequent traveler, The Luggage Club (TLC) would like to reward you with a 2,000 Marriott Rewards point bonus on your next paid delivery. That's in addition to earning 10 bonus points per dollar spent on all luggage and goods delivery services. And if you register now as a new TLC member, you will receive an additional $50 TLC gift card to be applied to the first scheduled delivery.

Starwood’s partnership with Luggage Forward allows guests the opportunity to send their luggage to nearly any destination globally. W Hotels will handle the checking, claiming and customs. W Hotels’ Whatever/Whenever service offers guests the opportunity to travel light. Your luggage is picked up from your home and delivered directly to your W Hotel room! And as you depart, just name the location and they will make sure your bags get there as well. Want to wear that special dress as soon as you check in? It’s waiting for you in your room! Your bags are tracked by staff who’ll contact you by e-mail upon delivery, allowing you to experience travel knowing that your bags are already waiting for you.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

United Airlines offers Door-to-door luggage

Further to my previous threat to resort to dressing in layers as a human equivalent of a Russian stacking doll, due to the trend towards charging for bags, I won’t have to. `Thanks to a new partnerships with Luggage Forward service, Marriott and The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts have a Signature Travel Service. Global Guests of the Luxury Collection will now enjoy luggage Free Travel for a fee. A medium sized bag would cost 94 USA from TX to CA on their 5 day service and $245.00 for overnight. - Steep, but you can get points for it. Luggage Forward's door-to-door luggage delivery service is easier than traveling with luggage, safe and guaranteed to arrive on time. Marriott has an elite special through October 31, 2008 to receive a $50 gift card to use toward delivery service when you register as a new member with The Luggage Club.

They will give a first time user 5% discount to you even if you are not a Starwood or Marriott Rewards member.

United Airlines, today becomes the first U.S. airline to offer overnight baggage shipping service via an overnight courier that will provide customers with a more convenient and easy way to travel -- without their luggage. United's new service, Door-to-Door Baggage, enables customers in the continental U.S. to conveniently ship their suitcases, or other travel items like skis or golf clubs, overnight from a home or office directly to their destination within the 48 contiguous United States. At $149 one way for flights less than 1,000 miles, or $179 for longer flights. Door-to-Door Baggage may be purchased on and shipments can be easily tracked online. The Bags are picked up at a home or office. It also provides United with a new revenue stream that, when combined with other ancillary revenue and fee initiatives, is expected to generate more than one billion dollars in 2009." United has lots more revenue creating fees up their sleeves, for example, starting at $14 one way, customers may sit in United's Economy Plus seating section that has up to five more inches of legroom (for elite customers, access to Economy Plus is complimentary). Also, with United's Award Accelerator offering, starting at $9, customers may earn travel awards faster on UAUA.

Continental has reduced the size of carry-on luggage we suspect to increase the checked bags - now that they charge for them. I wonder if United will think of a way to force people to use their new Door-to-Door service.?

Halloween Hotels

The Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa in California, has their own resident ghost.
For those with smaller children a more controlled environment can be found at the many parties promoted. A Halloween package is offered at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale Arizona 85254 where they Have a director of FUN.
In old England cakes were made for the wandering souls at All Hallows an ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of the dead but then it was wiped out in England when it was considered a "pagan" holiday.
In 601 A.D. Pope Gregory rather than try to obliterate native peoples' customs and beliefs, the pope instructed his missionaries to use them so the Irish brought the custom to America. Thanks to Pope Gregory, the day of the dead is celebrated in Mexico. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and relatives who have died. Catholics take food to eat at the graveyards. The celebration occurs on the 1st and 2nd of November.
The town of Ocotepec, north of Cuernavaca in the State of Morelos opens its doors to visitors in exchange for 'veladoras' (small wax candles) to show respect for the recently dead. In return, the visitors receive tamales and 'atole'. I stayed at the
Marriott Ixtapan de la Sal Hotel & Spa in the area.
In the Philippines, the holiday is called Araw ng mga Patay (Day of the Dead) and is an amazing time to visit a cemetery because it is celebrated similar to the Mexican celebration.
In the U.K., Halloween is being picked up from the USA but their biggest night is on November 5, Guy Fawkes to commemorate the successful foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Also known as Bonfire Night. A great place to visit to experience this is Hexham's popular fireworks extravaganza. They have a Band playing and a big Bonfire.
Visit the White Cliffs of Dover is Britain's supposedly most haunted castle. The spooky events at Dover Castle this Halloween will entertain kids with the legends then adults join a ghost walk through the castle and grounds. Another ancient site worth a visit is Anne Boleyn’s gruesome beheading site. Poor Anne’s headless ghost is said still to roam Blickling Hall.

I still feel it is decidedly pagan, never liked, visiting "haunted houses" or watching horror movies, though I did enjoy the bonfires at Guy Fawkes in England as a child.

Monday, October 27, 2008

AirFrance - KLM may buy Alitalia

AirFrance-KLM may, as soon as next week, buy a 20%-25% stake in a "new" Alitalia, the company which should emerge next week from the remains of the collapsed Italian flag carrier Alitalia according to a published report by the Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf .
Rumor is that Morgan Stanley is also considering investing in the resuscitated airline, alongside a consortium of Italian investor’s final attempt to rescue Alitalia from bankruptcy protection. The government has appointed Augusto Fantozzi, to restructure, liquidate the company, or perhaps the Franco-Dutch giant will eventually absorb Alitalia. see also the De Finaciele Telegraaf. and here

The Delta-Northwest merger may also happen soon in a new round of consolidation in the troubled industry.
The merger would expand Delta's access to the fast-growing Asian market and create one of the world's largest carriers.
My favorite airline, Continental Airlines is the world's fifth largest airline. I hope they don’t grow too big to treat little me well.
A combination of Delta and Northwest would have nearly $30 billion in annual revenue and about 80,000 employees, knocking American Airlines parent AMR Corp. from its position as the No. 1 U.S. airline and posing a challenge to the world's largest, AIR France-KLM.

In June 2008, airlines were knocked back as oil prices spiked up, but now that gas is low they should do well. On 27th October 2008, La Porte TEXAS had unleaded gas for 1 dollar and 99 cents, so we really should see lower airfare but don’t hold your breath.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tourism is prostitution

“Tourism is prostitution”, was the headline of the Dutch newspaper, De Telegraaf who in turn were referring to a report by the sensationalist, tabloid paper, The Mail - reporting that Prince Philip, spouse of queen Elizabeth II, has compared tourism to prostitution by saying that it is national prostitution. Reportedly said during a visit with the Queen to Slovenia.
Proof that the tabloid paper is distorting this is that a Buckingham Palace spokesman said: ‘We would never discuss anything Prince Philip might have said.’ The Palace does not dignify a remark to that sort of press.
Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh is 87 years old now and he speaks his mind with a sense of humor that only the English can understand.
Prince Philip's gaffes have bemused us with his insensitive remarks many times. I think that he must tire of the etiquette integrated in his life and he rebels occasionally. At his age we should smile and let him get away with it after all, the weird humor runs in the family, his son Charles enjoys Monte Python. I respect him for his straight talk when he was in the Soviet Union in 1967 he said, "The bastards murdered half my family."
Britain was outraged when he remarked that, "If a cricketer decides to go into a school and batter people to death with a bat are you going to ban cricket bats?" This was after a cry for banning handguns after the Dunblane massacre.
Prince Philip has inserted himself into the debate over London’s traffic congestion with an amusing proposal to ban tourists. In a private conversation with members of the London Assembly, including Jeanette Arnold the appalled tourism chairwoman, he made his latest gaffe.
Some think it’s refreshing to find a public character, with character, who is not afraid to be politically incorrect.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Marriott Rewards will offer the same Elite bonus as other loyalty programs

Marriott Rewards today announced that award blackout dates will go away. If you stay for a single night the blackout date removal will be helpful. I have successfully been redeeming blackout free Starpoints for years.

This Marriott program enhancement will start on the 15th of January 2009, with an increase in the Platinum bonus to 50%, in keeping with the industry standard. - Priority Club (IHG), and Starwood (SPG) give Platinum Elite members a 50% Elite point bonus on base points.

The elite point bonus offered by Marriott is presently only 20 to 30% max (for Plat) whereas the SPG ELITE 50% BONUS is earned on platinum and gold. At the Preferred SPG level, you earn 2 Starpoints per every eligible dollar spent and at the gold and Platinum -3 points.
The elite point bonus for Hilton HHonors is 15 to 50% Hyatt Gold passport Varies between 15-30% with Priority club distinguishing between the elite levels the most with a 10 to -50% bonus. 10% bonus on base points is given to gold members and platinum get 50% bonus to base points.
Next year Marriott will also offer a 5th Award night free. Priority Club (IHG) give Platinum Elite members a 50% Elite point bonus on base points.
Blackout dates will be eliminated at nearly 2,900 Marriott hotels worldwide
Participating brands include Marriott Hotels and Resorts, JW Marriott Hotels and Resorts, Renaissance Hotels and Resorts, Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn by Marriott, Fairfield Inn by Marriott, TownePlace Suites by Marriott, and SpringHill Suites by Marriott.

The offer to redeem 4 nights to get the 5th redemption night free is advertised as an enhancement but some are wary.
The Marriott point cost for 5 nights at a Category 5 hotel will cost 5.000 more points for the stay than with the previous point price list.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Planet Hollywood offer for Platinum Elites

Movie stars galore at the Planet Hollywood Hotel in Las Vegas. I’m too stingy to part with my dollars by gambling, but it is fun to people watch and the restaurants, spa and shopping mall gave me plenty to do.
The Movie theme and genuine Hollywood memorabilia decorating all the rooms are unique. The hotel was formerly known as The Aladdin, and was more suited to Disney land. - Much more cool SLIK now!

Starwood today, announced a special offer for Platinum elite members to have a weekend for two, November 7–9, 2008, in Las Vegas for just 20,000 Starpoints. Roll the dice, spin the wheel to reserve your first come, first served spot. This exclusive weekend includes:

  • Two nights’ accommodations in a Hollywood Hip room
  • Friday evening welcome reception
  • SPG member-only blackjack tournament with a chance to win one million Starpoints*
  • Saturday night tickets for two for either Keith Barry: Hypnomagician or Stomp Out Loud
  • Sunday morning breakfast for two with SPG
  • Additional hotel nights for $89 per night

**This exclusive opportunity is only available to the first 300 eligible Platinum Preferred Guest members who respond, so RSVP now. Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino, A Sheraton Resort, is right on the world famous Las Vegas Strip.
Three acres of non-stop gaming action, great bars, lounges and one bar in the middle of the casino for celebrity watching The EXTRA Lounge. We saw Pamela Anderson there.
The action is here where the correspondents from EXTRA mix, mingle and interview celebrities from their Las Vegas Headquarters. The hotel is easy to navigate around, so no problems getting lost like some of the older Vegas hotels that like to trap their guests in their casinos.

Dining options abound - Japanese Restaurant offering small plates spun with a California twist; the extraordinary prime cuts of Strip House steak house that we celebrated Rene’s birthday at by ordering one desert but got enough chocolate cake for 10 people; the coolly sophisticated Mexican tastes of Yolos Mexican Grill; P.F. Chang's China Bistro; the 24-hour Planet Dailies café; the fast and easy Earl of Sandwich; the #1 buffet in all of Vegas—Spice Market Buffet; and even Starbuck's. The chocolate cake was too tempting ...You know what they say about debauchery in Vegas….Unfortunately, what happens in Vegas …. Can’t be dismissed because it shows up on the scale when you get home.

The movie 'WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS" starring Demi Moores Ashton and Cameron Diaz. do plenty of Vegas-style partying filmed at the planet hollywood. Even the horrifying morning after scene was filmed on location in many parts of the hotel. The Fox T.V. drama "PRISON BREAK", was also, recently filmed in many parts of the hotel.
They have 2 enormous pools. What a pity that the hotel pools will be closed for the season starting November 1, 2008 until April 15, 2009. I like to swim throughout the year or at least move my limbs in the hot tub. I even swim at ski resorts if the pool is adequately heated. Nothing I enjoyed more than a swim after skiing at the Hyatt Beaver Creek CO. The steam rises from the pool and it is divine!

I could watch the Bellagio fountain performance while reclining on the bed or while relaxing in the enormous bath tub.

I should not complain about the pool closing for winter because the bath tub in my room was as big as a pool. Extremely divine!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Windmills & Souvenirs

Tourists like to go to the Rijks museum and the many other attractions in Holland but the place that most visitors describe as the highlight of their visit is, - Zaanse Schans.

I always take visitors there and have even guided Dutch natives there. It is a wonderful place to visit to see a delightful old hamlet on the banks of the river Zaan. 'The open-air museum includes a wooden shoemaker, pewter factory, bakery, cheese-maker, dairy farm, and a century-old grocery store. Original buildings have been preserved to depict Dutch life in the 17th and 18th centuries. Don’t miss the historic shipyard, the clog-making demonstration and millers demonstrating how their windmills work.Lots of shops offering Cheese, souvenirs, antiques, wooden toys and old fashioned Drop (Dutch candy made with salt). I know. I can see you pulling a face … ., but its redeeming quality is the licorice.

The first Albert Heijn grocer store can be seen.- Now it is the largest grocery chain in the country.

Admission to Zaanse Schans is free. There is a small fee for the museums, mills and the Loo (you always pay for the Rest Room in Holland.). There are four direct trains per hour that take you from Amsterdam Central Station to the Koog-Zaandijk station in 17 minutes.

Some of the attractions are closed in the winter but there is still lots to see. Bear in mind that it is an outdoor village. I’ve been there on an ice-rain day in the winter.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

a-la-carte air charges by American Airlines

American Airlines, the world’s largest airline, is thinking up all kinds of things that they can charge for in their a la carte program. They were the first to charge for checked bags and now charge for blankets, pillows, headsets, drinks etc. Air Canada has been charging this way since 2004.

CRS software providers that give booking services to airlines and other travel providers may not be programed to the a la carte pricing structure. Sabre is American Airlines so they will adapt but Amadeus, Galileo and Worldspan may not be able to deal with the new pricing.

Northwest Airlines Corp. estimates baggage charges will bring in $150 million or more each year. Continental Airlines estimates it will generate more than $100 million just from a new $15 fee for checking a single bag for non elite passengers
Air Canadas choices are from four fare levels:
The top tickets, called Latitude and Executive Class, are fully refundable and come with priority check-in, food and other extras included. The cheapest fare, called Tango, requires extra fees for upgrades such as a food voucher, advance seat selection, flight changes and airport lounge access. Tango passengers can save another $3 by declining frequent-flier miles or not checking a bag. mmmm... not a bad idea, now that airline miles are worthless.

AA is courting Business Class passengers with its "We Know Why You Fly" brand campaign.

But nickle and diming us because you know that we have to fly does not make us happy and now that oil is cheaper, are they going to give us refunds?
They have added charges for fuel, checked baggage, upgrading from coach and other services, but the one that hits me the most is the flight change fee. I paid 1000.00 dollars on one Continental Airlines international flight. It is $250.00 each time you change the date and I changed both the inbound and the outbound flights 2 times each. The change fee for domestic flights is $150.00 each time.

“As with all of our advertising, we wanted to develop the best story that relates to our customers,” said Roger Frizzell, for American Airlines. “This new commercial is a strong addition to our broadcast and online rotation, exemplifies the commitment that American makes to its business customers, giving them the product that they value.” The new work follows the story of a film producer and the obstacles that she faces while working in different international locations with a talented, yet challenging director. As in real life, American’s global scope and new Business Class offerings are a pivotal part of the story of this resourceful professional who “just makes things happen.” Another commercial, will also be an integral part of American’s out-of-home utilization of video. It is the first of a series that complements the current campaign, which includes “Team Building,” a commercial that features two co-workers desperately trying to change their flights to an earlier departure so they can escape their team-building seminar. That commercial recently won a Cannes Bronze Lion.

The best method to obtain an upgrade

We flew Continental Airlines from New York to Amsterdam using a combination of payment and miles for the upgrade portion. I was at the top of the upgrade wait list. Then joyously, while walking out of the Presidents club, was able to see that my BusinessFirst seat had been confirmed. 'The gate agent was chatting with a passenger pal but I requested my boarding pass. She was about to print it when another agent interrupted to whisper that she wanted to give the upgrade to their friend. She then turned to inform me that there was no upgrade for me, so I respectfully produced proof of my confirmed upgrade, visible on my cell phone. Did not think that this could be disputed but she tried. A moment later I clicked on the refresh button and was astonished to see that the person that was previously behind me on the wait list had jumped over my name and was now positioned to get the seat that I had been allocated. I think that the supervisor was able to discover that her unethical preference for her friend was unmerited, because she unearthed my first class seat.
All was well and I was able to enjoy the scrumptious steak on board, prepared with direction from the Chef at Churrascos Restaurant. It is a restaurant I frequent in Houston.
I like happy endings… will leave it here for today but watch this space because I will elaborate on my growing suspicion that the best trick to obtaining an upgrade is to know the airline staff.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hell on United Airlines vs Heavenly

I won’t be flying with United because Westin Hotels have partnered with United Airlines to bring the Westin pillows and merchandise to air travel and I am allergic to the down/feather pillows. I would prefer the memory foam.

Business and First-class sections on United's premium service flights between New York's JFK airport and California, travelers will have the signature so called "Heavenly" blanket and pillow, during the cross-country flight.

On the aircrafts and at the Westin Renewal Lounges inside Red Carpet Clubs they will sell their products. In my opinion, they should stick to their core business and not try to sell bedding and furniture on planes.

Select United Red Carpet Clubs in New York and San Francisco, for example, feature custom-designed Westin Renewal Lounges outfitted with the signature Westin design, lighting, White tea scent, food, and botanicals.

They never have their white tea candles in the hotel rooms so I don’t suppose they will have them at the airport and most definitely not on the plane. Are scents not an individual preference?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Insider info. – What Hotel Programs don’t tell you.

I have completed the 25 annual stays that are needed to qualify for Platinum Starwood Elite status and I was planning to use some of my points for the rest of the year so I am a bit peeved that they have an offer to attain elite status more easily than I have been doing it.
Starwood has an offer that they say is ,” The biggest offer in Starwood Preferred Guest® history.” You Choose your own rewards. - The most popular choice is the unlimited double Starpoints® option where you can aspire to reach elite status with stays counting double. Register your choice, complete an eligible stay at any of the participating Starwood hotels and resorts worldwide between October 1 and December 31, 2008, and then reap your reward.
I don’t need it but may wait for it in case they offer it again next year because most hotel chains offer promotions to entice one into accumulating more points. Marriotts fall MegaBonus delivers rewards when you stay at Marriott properties September 15, 2008 to January 15, 2009, and payment is with your Visa Card.

Marriott offer a better deal for less frequent stayers than for Platinum members because Plat members have to stay the full 20 total Visa-paid nights to earn 35,000 bonus points, whereas silver members can start earning bonus points on their second stay but can only earn a max of 25.000 points. They feel better than I did when I stayed 19 nights one year and got NO mega points Zilch! I don’t need points to maintain Platinum level for this year so I won’t even try to get the 20 nights this year since I am not eligible for the 2nd to 19th stay.
The stars have to be perfectly aligned when you register for the MegaBonus promotion if you want to earn 5,000 Marriott Rewards points (up to 25,000 points), for every third Visa-paid stay you make at Marriott (Platinum members are NOT eligible). Some guests stars are aligned to get points after their second stay.
Some earn up to 25,000 Bonus Points Stays and only need 15 stays to achieve a goal. They raise the bar to 20 stays for Platinum members and don’t give any points on the way to the 20 stays. One more reason that makes me think that they want to discourage Platinum members.

They really mean it when they advertise that the stars have to be aligned !

Monday, September 22, 2008

Continental retracted the change in minimum miles for elites.

Continental Airlines announced earlier this month, that OnePass members would earn the actual miles flown rather than a minimum of 500 miles per flight for tickets purchased on or after Nov. 15, 2008. They have now recanted and announced today that elite members will be exempt from this change because members complained that the change unfairly dilutes the benefits of the OnePass program. Therefore they are exempting elite members from this change, and Elite members will continue to earn the 500 mile minimum on all segments flown.

Glad they changed their mind!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Terrorist explosion at a Marriott Hotel

NBC News reported on 9/20/2008 that a ton of explosives ripped through Islamabad, Pakistan –at part of the heavily guarded Marriott Hotel in Pakistan's capital, killing at least 55.

Pakistan’s recent army-led offensives against insurgents in its border regions has weeded out many of the Militant Islamic Terrorists, so sadly, sometimes it becomes worse before it becomes better.

Luckily security at Hotels in Houston during and after Hurricane Ike was excellent. The Intercontinental in particular implemented extra precautions and the Mayor prevented looting where windows had broken.

I was concerned about security at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Mexico City when some street boys tried to open my hotel room door in the middle of the night. I think that they had come up from the garage via the fire escape. Judging from their apparel they appeared to be peasants and not guests. This was an isolate incident and I have always seen evidence that the security at the J.W. Marriott is the best in that country. It is a very well run hotel but I was concerned that John McCain would be safe when he stayed there after his visit to offer support to the hostage release of Ingrid Betancourt in Columbia in July 08. I dismissed my concerns when I saw that the security was top notch.
No matter how good the security is at any hotel, guests should bear in mind that we should call the front desk if we have doubts about opening the door. The security at the JW Marriott attended to my call immediately and I never had a problem again.
We all have to be cautious and observant!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Houston hurricane hotels

Due to Hurricane Ike most hotels don't have power but a few in the Galleria and downtown area are open. The Fourpoints Sheraton in Greenway Plaza has structural damage so they asked all the guests to leave on 9/15/2008. They will be closed for several weeks.
the Intercontinental Hotel has beefed up security and dont allow many people entrance.

The CrownePlaza has power from a generator and is one of the few downtown buildings that has not lost many windows.
If you need help finding a hotel - leave a comment on this site with your email address or phone number and I will get back to you.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Continental will begin charging for your FIRST checked bag

I may have to resort to dressing in layers as a human equivalent of a Russian stacking doll.
We have been appalled by the trend towards charging for the first bag but now that we have to check liquids, it has reduced women road warriors to worriers. Keeping track of expenses on the road is time consuming.

Many airlines are nickel and diming passengers with charges for food, headsets, bags, pillows and all kinds of taxes. In keeping with the industry standard, Continental will not charge the fee to elite-level frequent fliers or customers traveling on full-fare refundable tickets. The new fee goes into effect immediately for tickets purchased for travel on or after Oct. 7, the company said in a news release.

Southwest Airlines is one of the few to still allow two free checked bags.
Despite lower fuel prices, Continental Airlines will charge domestic customers $15 for a check in bag. American Airlines and US Airways assesses a $15 fee for passengers' first checked bag and also charges $25 for all second checked bags. US Airways exempt all Dividend Miles Preferred members (Silver, Gold, Platinum and Chairman’s Preferred) and confirmed First Class or Star Alliance Silver and Gold status members.American Airlines exceptions to this policy include customers who purchase First or Business Class tickets, AAdvantage Executive Platinum®, AAdvantage Platinum® and AAdvantage Gold® members as well as customers who purchase full-fare tickets in Economy.

Discouraging baggage on board will mean that more carry-on luggage will need to be gate-checked. And that means more departure delays and longer TSA security lines.
American Airlines has again raised the bar by charging for internet on cross country flights. This is an annoying habit that hotels engage in. I’m glad the hotels can’t pick up the bad habit of charging for pillows because you would find a lot of women carrying pillows on their bodies. (Men can’t get away with this one)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Elite Benefits

Upcoming issues will cover:
• The criteria to earn lifetime status (Emeritus status) with Hotels and airlines.
• Elite Benefits comparison of major loyalty programs.
• New offers and elite specials
• Facts and features of frequent flyer and stayer programs.

Watch this space for future topics and feel free to contribute.

THE INSIDE SCOOP on Hotel and airline Tips and Trends

Starwood is going to announce SPG® Flights, a new redemption opportunity now available.
You can redeem Starpoints for airline tickets on hundreds of airlines worldwide — with no blackout dates — even during peak periods such as holidays or for last-minute flights. If there's a seat available for purchase with cash, you can use your Starpoints.

Starwood Preferred Guest is the first and only hotel loyalty program that allows members to redeem award points for air travel on available flights without the restrictions or fees typically required by frequent-flyer programs. Their popular airline transfer awards are still an option, which allow members to redeem Starpoints for frequent-flyer miles.

I think that it makes sense to choose Starwood, Marriott, Priority Club or any hotel Points rather than get airline miles.
Points can be accumulated through qualifying stays in hotels. You can redeem points for more cost effective awards as hotel stays not Frequent Flyer Miles, but it is nice to have the option.
This new offer by SPG flights may tempt me to try it even though it has been my policy to use hotel points for hotels and frequent flyer miles for air travel.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Continental OnePass iDine

News Flash! PROGRAM ENDING: - Unfortunately the Continental Airlines OnePass Dining program, operated by Rewards Network, will end on October 31, 2008. This was a great way to accumulate miles with the airline.
Will be missed !


When brand uniformity offers a comprehensive approach to travel at all their properties it makes it so much easier to travel. Knowing what to expect reduces logistical preparation on my part because I don’t have the time to research each hotel individually. Business travel should be convenient since, time is of essence. Knowing the hotel brand and category helps and an elite Check-in-Desk speeds things up. Gotta streamline where ever you can to keep ahead of the ratrace.

Staying on the Club Floor and having evening Hors D'oeuvres plus Continental Breakfast in the Club, Regency or concierge Lounge is the best time saver. SPG, Marriott Platinum or Hyatt diamond membership has this advantage.

I like the Marriott brand because it ensures efficient travel. I can feel confident that the Marriott hotels will have a coffee maker, iron, internet, a bath tub, hairdryer, a full length mirror and a familiar floor plan that means that I can find the bathroom in the dark.

I have to digress here by lamenting that I wish more hotel designers would have the consideration to put in a night light in the bathroom. Unfortunately I have only come across 2 hotels that offer this convenient feature.

  1. The J.W. Marriott Camelback Inn & Spa in Scottsdale, AZ

  2. The Westin Grand Cape Town Arabella Quays, in South Africa

This is much appreciated when I wake up in the dark, jetlagged and disoriented in the middle of the night and take a few seconds to remember where I am in this world.
Can’t do without amenities that are featured characteristics of upscale hotels are Robes, mini-bar, high speed internet and lighted make-up mirrors.

Sites to help with planning: CitySearch;; idine; Expedia; Hotwire;; TripAdvisor; Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. ; Out and Out Traveler; Marriott Hotels & Resorts; Renaissance Hotels & Resorts; Marriott Conference Centers; Crowne Plaza and InterContinental Hotels; Hyatt

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Mexican village church

Driving in Mexico is not so easy because our GPS sent us up some mountainous dirt roads but it is much more pleasant to drive in the country side than in the chaos of Mexico City. We were on the road from Taxco to The Marriott Ixtapan de la Sal Hotel & Spa, and came across a typical Mexican church. The name of the chapel was, St. Judas and I felt drawn to visit it.
I went into the beautiful church and sat on a back pew to say a little prayer (to show my respect for the institution). It was a wonderfully peaceful feeling to soak up the serenity offered in this somber cocoon.
There is so much evil in the big city where even the police cannot be trusted, but here in the country-side, with the goats and donkeys outside, I could feel the goodness and peace.
A tiny old lady was sitting embroidering in the corner. The two of us were alone in this aged, high building. Her grey hair was braided (platted) in the traditional Indian style, a ray of the bright sunlight had made its way into the dark church to illuminate her. I walked over to her and gave her 50 pesos and complimented her on her beautiful church. She smiled and got up to put the donation into the hole of a padlocked box, with reverence. I was warmed at this proof that the “gente humilde” (humble people),... folk are inherently good. What a pity that the politicians in Mexico are not as honest.

Welcome to my travel blog

This is a blog with information on elite benefits for travelers holding elite status. Those of us that like to have an organized, constant but sophisticated hospitality experience will find interesting anecdotes.