JetBlue Plus Card in-flight savings benefit

Most people know that airline-affiliated cards provided certain benefits for those taking flights of particular carriers. This usually means a reduced (or no) checked baggage fee and some kind of priority boarding. This has become even more relevant as larger airlines are beginning to try to squeeze even more revenue out of their customers (Air Canada and Westjet, plus JetBlue, for example).

So, it is nice when an extra benefit comes in handy. When my wife and I were traveling home from San Francisco recently we were late arriving to the airport so we didn’t have enough time to get sufficient food for the 5 hour journey. Instead, we relied on the food provided by JetBlue. It wasn’t just the free snacks that held us over, it was the tremendous amount of food in the Eat Up Boxes that gave us the meals that we wanted in-flight. And, since we have the JetBlue Plus Mastercard, the costs was literally cut in half.

As reflected on my most recent credit card statement, instead of spending $46 for this food (which would be a pretty absurd price), we spent $23 (something more reasonable). While I don’t want to rely on this in the future, it is nice to know that it is an option.

Citi Prestige Trip Cancellation Benefit doesn’t cover miles refunds

In an attempt to recoup the value of a ticket my wife and I had to cancel I called the phone number on the back of our Citi Prestige card in order to file a trip cancellation refund request. We had used the card to pay the taxes on a mileage trip on Korean Airlines, whose generous refund rules allow you to recoup much of your losses for not that much money (miles, actually). That being said, they still deduct miles in order to process the refund according to this chart:

So, due to the international nature of our travel we each lost 3,000 Korean Air Skypass miles in the transaction (and we got the rest back, including the taxes). So, when I called Citi, I wasn’t necessarily expecting anything magical, but I was hoping they would refund some kind of dollar value of the 6,000 miles that we lost. Turns out the answer is no. They don’t refund miles. I’ve been a happy customer of Citi Prestige for a while and love all their insurance benefits but it turns out this one they don’t help with. It’s not that big a deal – 6,000 miles is a small price to pay to get everything back easily, but it’s annoying.

Good to know for the future, though, I’m sure.

Review: Hyatt Centric Fishman’s Wharf San Francisco

My wife and I spent one night at the Hyatt Centric Fishman’s Wharf in San Francisco before a wedding this past weekend and were pleasantly surprised. We booked the hotel on points and had two options to choose from:

I easily chose the King Bed since it meant more space in the room itself. Overall, the room was great – the bed was comfortable, there was enough space for us to put all of our luggage, have space for seating, a bathtub large enough to lie in, and more. There were many connections for charging both USB and regular powered devices as well. I would like to give special kudos to the staff who let us stay past our check-out time when we needed some extra time.

The location was also excellent: within walking distance of the wharf, Ghirardelli square, and more. It was a great stay, even if it it was short. See some photos below (we arrived late at night, which is why the pictures are dark).

 

Using Budget’s Fastbreak service at SFO

The San Francisco rental car center is both convenient and annoying at the same time. It has all the rental car companies and their cars located in one gigantic garage that is easily accessible by the AirTrain connecting all the terminals and BART stations. That being said, it takes a good 10 minutes to get to by AirTrain and you arrive with a large throng of people so getting to a good position in line for your rental car can be difficult.

Enter the loyalty programs and services like “Fastbreak.” As I’ve published before, oftentimes these companies show your name on a screen to ensure you know where to go for your car.

This time, however, Budget went old school and put our rental agreements on paper next to the station where no associates were standing. Since we were going to show our driver’s licenses to the exit attendant anyway, it didn’t matter that we didn’t check in with anyone. I just thought it was quaint to use paper instead of a video screen (which Avis was doing right next to the Budget station).

United DOES care (on a trip when your in-flight entertainment doesn’t work)

My wife and I took United flight 1513 from Newark to San Francisco last Thursday afternoon and were pleasantly surprised by the outcome of an unfortunate situation that occurred with the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system.

Essentially, since United decided to remove many of their IFE systems from planes to save on costs. The physical hardware requires maintenance and fuel in order to keep it in the sky. Many airlines are going in this direction so you should always check in advance if you need to download an app or a movie to make sure you have something to watch on long flights (that is, if you want to – there are also these paper-based items called “books” I’ve heard are having a resurgence).

Anyway, for the vast majority of our flight the IFE system was inoperable. My wife and I like to watch movies together on airplanes and were disappointed (as, I’m sure were parents of small children…). I read a book and took a nap, then discovered with about 45 minutes left in the flight that the IFE was working again.

Throughout this situation, were kept fairly well apprised by the flight attendants that there was nothing they could do and that they were sorry for the delay. Toward the second half of the flight we heard a message explaining that they wanted to make it right with us and we should go to this website in order to get something for our troubles. In the end, we were offered a choice that – to me – is a no-brainer:

5000 miles is worth about $50-$75 with how they are often used, so I opted for the $100 e-certificate for the two of us. That means our next flights are discounted by a pretty substantial amount. Since the plane tickets, themselves, were about $110 each for us, I’m impressed that we were able to get these certificates.

Also, I’m curious to know United’s math on this situation. According to this seating chart of the plane that we used (I think it was this model of 777-200) there were 364 people on the plane, meaning $100 * 364 = $36,400 of extra cost for United. I am very impressed at both the speed and ease in which this all took place. This definitely makes me like them a bit more than I had before.

Kudos, United. Thanks for the money back.

Chase Ultimate Rewards dropping Korean Air as transfer partner

I have read all the posts recently about Chase dropping Korean Air Skypass as a transfer partner for Ultimate Rewards points and been incredibly saddened by the idea. My wife and I travelled to South Korea on the way to our honeymoon two years ago and very much look forward to returning to the country in the future. Their availability of first class awards and generous hold policy meant we had more time to get the points necessary for their product, which is quite comfortable and spacious. While this may not change a lot of our strategizing with miles/points it will definitely have an impact as we want to use their routing rules to return in the future.

EL AL Policies have shifted around in regards to religiously-inclined seating requests

As a frequent traveler I find it is very important to know and understand the religious and cultural values of the country to which I am traveling. Unfortunately, when it comes to my own background as Jewish person, I am sometimes dismayed at how those values can be warped and twisted. Case in point: women sitting next to religious men on an airplane.

Airplanes are obviously close-quarters. Airline owners are pondering daily how to cram more people in to make more money. So, when (as often happens) an ultra-orthodox Jewish man is seated next to a woman in a seat on a plane, the man often asks flight attendants to move the woman so he won’t break his interpretation of Jewish law. The actual law is called Shomer Negiah and I have plenty of religious friends that follow it but still sit next to women on airplanes.

Enter: Renee Rabinowitz, a Holocaust survivor and 81-year-old woman who was sitting in business class, yet still had the same request made of her. Back in 2016 she filed a lawsuit and in 2017 she won it. El Al, the Israeli airline, was now mandated to come up with a more specific policy on how to deal with these situations, and not one that would be negative towards women.

The more specific policies were implemented (women are not to be asked to move anymore) but an ad showcasing them was blocked for being too political in origin.

Then, finally, on June 24, El Al Chairman Gonen Ussishkin announced Monday that any passengers refusing to sit next to other passengers will be immediately removed from the aircraft. I am truly curious to see how this will work going forward. Will the ultra-orthodox just choose a different airline and have the whole issue pop up again? Or will they stop flying at all? I wonder…