British Airways Avios Devaluation

The biggest news going around the travel blogosphere lately is one we’re sadly all too familiar with… devaluation. British Airways announced some pricey changes to their loyalty program that will take effect April 28, 2015. The last time they changed their loyalty program was over 3 years ago so I suppose they’re due.

Earning Avios

There are changes to earning rates that, honestly, don’t concern me because I don’t ever fly or credit my miles to British Airways. You can read about them here.

Redeeming Avios

The changes that I care about most are the ones for redeeming Avios. Luckily, economy awards aren’t changing, but Avios amounts for premium cabin awards are definitely changing. Below is the new award chart for British Airways & Iberia metal.

New British Airways Award Chart

New British Airways Award Chart

Below is the peak calendar for 2015. Not bad if you fly BA/Iberia because most of the year is off-peak.

Peak & Off-Peak 2015

Peak & Off-Peak 2015

 

What if I use Avios to fly on partners instead of BA or Iberia?

Again, economy award rates won’t change. Premium Economy, Business and First class rates will definitely change.

Business Class redemptions will increase 50% on any route Zone 4 and beyond. This is unfortunate because there were some great sweet spot routes that fell in Zone 4. BOS-DUB & JFK-YVR are very popular.

Examples:

Boston to Dublin (Zone 4) is 25k one-way in Business Class on Aer Lingus, probably one of the best deals with Avios. On & after April 28th, BOS-DUB will be 37.5k in Business.

New York to Vancouver Zone 4) is 25k one-way in Business Class on Cathay Pacific’s Fifth Freedom flight, another top redemption with Avios. This will be 37.5k in Business going forward as well.

New York to Hong Kong (Zone 8) is 70k one-way in Business Class on Cathay Pacific. On April 28th, JFK-HKG will be 105k in Business.

What do I do now?

If you have a huge stockpile of Avios, it’s time to start thinking of redeeming the premium award you were saving for. Come April 28th, that award is only going to get more expensive. Devaluations are always good lessons for us; don’t hoard your miles & points!

As for me, I have less than 70k Avios in our household account so I won’t be employing any drastic measures. I also like to use Avios for their short-haul leverage; I flew to Montreal twice in 2014 for a mere 4,500 Avios each way. Since that award isn’t changing, I think I’ll keep some Avios handy for it.

Overall, this upcoming devaluation is bad news for those of us who like to redeem for premium travel. British Airways’ last devaluation made long-haul premium travel more expensive; this time around they might as well be unattainable.

Reminders Before the End of 2013

As we come to the end of the year/quarter, there are several bonuses and promotions wrapping up. Tuesday, December 31st will be the drop dead date.

Chase Freedom 4th Quarter Bonus

5x Ultimate Rewards points on Amazon.com and select department stores. This was an easy set of categories to rack up $1,500 worth of spend. If you haven’t, buy some Amazon e-gift cards for yourself for future use!

Discover IT 4th Quarter Bonus

The Discover IT card is basically their answer to the Chase Freedom, with rotating category bonuses every quarter. This quarter’s was “online purchases” which made it really easy with all the online shopping for the holidays + the points-manufacturing schemes like Amazon Payments.

American Express Membership Rewards British Airways Transfer Bonus

Get 20% more Avios bonus will end on Tuesday as well. Obviously, don’t transfer points without an award in your sights. The only exception to that rule is when you plan on cancelling a card. We’ll be cancelling Joann’s Platinum card so instead of downgrading or straight up losing the points, we’d rather get a transfer bonus on points we’ll be sure to use.

Cathay Pacific’s Last London 747 Flight

Gary writes about Cathay’s last London Boeing 747 flight, as these Queens of the Sky are being retired from service. As of now, there are 6 First Class award seats available! That’s the kind of New Year’s Party I could get into. You can use the aforementioned Amex-Avios transfer bonus to redeem for this momentous occasion. It will cost you 90K Avios + $456.

American Express Platinum $200 Airline Credit

Don’t forget that one major perk of being an Amex Platinum cardholder is a $200 airline credit every calendar year. It’s meant for incidentals like baggage fees or buy-on-board food, but it absolutely works when buying gift cards to your designated airline. I recently purchased a $200 American Airlines gift card and was reimbursed in 2 days.

American Express Sync Promotions

Amex has had some great promotions going throughout the year that are scheduled to end on the 31st. My favorite was the Amazon one, just in time for the holidays. Deals We Like has compiled a comprehensive list of the promotions along with their expiration dates. Be sure to take advantage of them if they fit your needs!

Although most of the Sync promotions are due to end on the 31st, my guess is that they’ll be re-upped for 2014.

Other Things To Remember

In 2013, the year of the devaluation, be cognizant of the upcoming changes. Hyatt is the first to change in the new year, making several changes to their award chart that go into effect on January 7, 2014.  United’s new, more expensive award charts will go into effect February 1, 2014.

Cathay Pacific’s Newest Route EWR-HKG

As announced this week, Cathay Pacific has their newest U.S. gateway city – Newark, NJ (EWR)! While not the most glamorous of U.S. destinations, this one hits close to home because it’s my home airport.

Cathay already has a great presence in NYC with 4 daily flights to Hong Kong, but I guess they wanted to increase frequency with this new route. Whatever the reason, I’m not complaining!

Here are the flight schedules:

CX New Route 1

CX899 EWR-HKG departing 1:50 AM arriving 5:40AM (+1 day)
CX890 HKG-EWR departing 6:20PM arriving 10:00PM

They will be flying a 3-cabin Boeing 777-300ER – no First Class! Sad, but CX Business Class is one of the best seats in the industry so no worries there.

Joann and I have flown it before and loved it. My dad, sister, and brother-in-law have also taken it before (all between MNL & JFK) and loved the experience.

CX_service12_3000w

Best Ways to Redeem Awards on Cathay Pacific

As of right now, there is PLENTY of Business & Economy availability through the end of schedule. I’m seeing 5 seats available for a bunch of flights.

Here are the 2 best ways to redeem an award on Cathay Pacific:

American Airlines AAdvantage miles

Easily one of the 2 best frequent flyer programs in existence. AA & CX are both in the oneworld alliance.

Between EWR & HKG, it will cost you 55k miles each way in Business Class and 35k miles each way in Economy.

A huge bonus to the AAdvantage program is that you can have a free stopover at your North American gateway city (in this case EWR). Essentially, you are getting a one-way domestic flight for no extra miles.

British Airways Avios

Avios are generally regarded as only useful for shorter flights since it is a distance-based program, but they are still an option for CX. BA is also part of the oneworld alliance.

Between EWR & HKG, it will cost you 70k Avios each way in Business Class and 35k Avios each way in Economy. Taxes & fees would range from $134 – 160.

CX New Route 2 EWR HKG

That would be a Happy Birthday to Me!

Don’t forget that both American Express Membership Rewards points and Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to British Airways!

In fact, Amex usually has transfer bonuses to BA so keep on the lookout and you could save some points.

Snowboarding in Whistler: Cathay Pacific First Class New York – Vancouver

TRIP INDEX

As is always the beginning with us and Cathay Pacific, the story starts out with us getting dropped off at Terminal 7 at JFK. Right away we went to the First & Business Class check-in desks around the corner from the Economy ones.

When the gate agent saw all our snowboard gear, she immediately asked if we were heading to Whistler. Why, of course!

After checking our 50+ pound bags (70 pound allowance for First Class), we walked toward the separate security checkpoint. Unlike last time we were at T7, it was open! I was relieved because I knew this meant passing through in about 5 minutes time and then more lounge time.

British Airways First Class Lounge

We actually didn’t take any photos this time because nothing much had changed. If you’d like to see pictures of the British Airways First Class Lounge, check out my RTW post.

The lounge was pretty packed. There were no empty lounger seats available so Joann and I grabbed a table by the bar and helped ourselves to some Veuve Clicquot champagne. A few glasses of that made up for the less than desirable seating.

Gate & Boarding

Soon enough, it was time to start heading to our gate for our 10:00 pm departure. Since we were only flying to Vancouver, I wanted to make sure we got on ASAP and maximized every minute possible in First Class. Hell, I’d take a ground delay as long as I could wait it out in the suite!

Continue reading

Snowboarding in Whistler: Introduction

Introduction
Cathay Pacific First Class New York – Vancouver
Whistler Blackcomb
Cathay Pacific First Class Vancouver – New York
Conclusion

This was a trip that was very familiar to us, but the first time we went predates this blog. In 2009, a group of 19 friends all hopped on a Cathay Pacific flight from NYC to Vancouver in search for some of the best snowboarding the West Coast (maybe the world?) had to offer. It was easily one of funnest trips that Joann and I have ever gone on.

On Top of the World - Whistler 2009

On Top of the World – Whistler 2009

Fast forward 4 years and we were out to do it again. Snowboarding in Whistler was the best snowboarding we’ve all ever done so we wanted a repeat performance. This time, only about 13 of us were able to make it to Whistler.

Even though it was a smaller group, we had just as many good times and it was a bit more special because Joann and I celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary there! Only a little different from where we got married…

Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii

Ko Olina, Oahu, Hawaii

Anyway, we end up renting the same beautiful slopeside house, originally discovered on VRBO (more on that in a later post).

Aside from the amazing time we had riding and hanging out in Whistler and Vancouver, there were also a few travel bits to mention.

  • Cathay Pacific First Class using British Airways Avios
  • Avis Whistler car rental
  • Finally redeeming Hertz points

It was a great week of (my kind of) relaxing and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Blackcomb Glacier 2013

Blackcomb Glacier 2013