Point Me to the Miles

Navigating the Path to Great Travel

Being Nice is Never Devalued

I rang up United today, and was reminded the importance of patience and being nice.

Background Story

Last year, my family and I had travel nearly interrupted when United abruptly cancelled the outbound flight of our trip. Due to some quick thinking on my part (I find it’s always helpful to call on your cell phone line rather than wait with the masses) I got us re-routed on Delta, and we actually arrived sooner than originally expected.

My Call to United

Flash forward today. It’s nearly been a year, and I realize I still need to request original flow mileage credit for a family member if they are to earn miles from the ticket. Yikes!

I called up United, and provided the information, but only after an extensive wait on the phone. I should note that I could have easily grown impatient with the agent. Rather, I kept my calm.

Keep Calm

I was informed that while mileage the return could be credited, because the outbound was on another carrier, they could not provide mileage credit for that portion of the trip. Which is of course, WRONG information. But, no need to be defensive.

I maintained my cool, and simply asked “O, really, why is that?” It would have been easy to get defensive and upset, but by responding patiently and playing dumb a little, I was able to disarm the agent. She said she would check something, then came back a minute later and retracted what she had said—the miles could in fact be credit!

The Lesson

I know folks who would become quickly irate, but in doing so you make no friends for yourself—you make enemies.

So do yourself and everyone a favor today if they tell you something you don’t want to hear: Be Nice. They just might go the extra mile for you!

About these ads

And United Dissapoints….

I am currently off to Philadelphia, the the City of Brotherly Love, for the July 4th holiday weekend.

 

Anyway, I am flying United, and hell must have frozen over because my flight out of San Francisco features in-flight wi-fi:

United In-Flight

United In-Flight Wi-Fi Available

However, there is a serious downside to this flight:

No Seat Power Available! on Some United Flights with Wi-Fi

No Seat Power Available!!

 

Honestly, the aircraft that I am on (an Airbus A319) is probably about 20 years old.  And just because an aircraft is retrofitted with in-flight wi-fi does not mean that it has in-flight power.  But, if you plan on using one or electronic devices on a 5-1/2 flight, you would certainly expect being able to power said devices using wi-fi.  UnitedFail.

 

Marriott Delivers A “Suite” Experience for Me

It is no secret that I absolutely love the Marriott Rewards program. Despite what many other bloggers say, I think it has a lot to offer and is a great loyalty program.  And during a recent stay I had with Marriott only validated that notion.

The Arrival

Recently, I spent a few days gallivanting through the history, culture of Boston, where I spent a few nights at the Marriott Boston Quincy.

I arrived from a rather late flight, and didn’t make it to the hotel until about 1 AM. While no one was currently available at the desk (I wouldn’t blame them), I rang the bell and Yvonne was quickly available to help me.

I handed her my ID and credit card, with my Marriott Gold Elite status card conspicuously between the two, as I always do at check-in.

It Never Hurts to Ask…

While she was pulling up my reservation I asked her if she by chance any suites were available.  A funny moment ensued, as she said that they had a number of snacks available by the desk. I clarified that I was talking about the type of room, and she apologized as she was in the midst of her mid-term exams.

Given the late hour I didn’t expect one, but it never hurts to ask—and she said that the Executive Suite was available!

Despite the confusion over “suites” I could tell she really cared and did a commendable job, especially given the late hour and the stresses of her academic studies.  I certainly was impressed with her customer service skills and willingness to help.

Because It can Lead to Rewards

One of the great things that make Marriott such a rewarding program in my opinion is they are consistently willing to go above and beyond, and she had certainly done that for me. And suite upgrades for elites are certainly a perk of the Marriott Rewards program, but she was extremely courteous and customer-focused, which left an impression on my despite the late hour.

I wanted to show appreciation for exceptional service, so I offered her a tip. She declined my offer by saying “I’m just doing my job!” I am not sure what Marriott’s policy is for receiving tips within the US, but this may have been why.

She also made sure to hand me a set of breakfast vouchers as the Club Lounge would not be open that weekend, and I headed to my Suite on the 7th Floor.

 

The Suite

The Executive Suite was situated across from the Elevator at an angle between the two perpendicular ends of the hotel.

Marriott Suite Upgrade for Elite Members

Boston Marriott Quincy Executive Suite

Just to the left of the entrance was a small bathroom.  Heading straight back was the living room area with a long table with 4 chairs around at, situated in front of a TV:

Marriott Suite Upgrade for Elite MembersFurther on back and to the right, there was a couch, beside another TV.

Marriott Suite Upgrade for Elite Members

Living Room Area

 

Angled to the left between the two TVs laid the entrance to the bedroom.

 

Marriott Suite Upgrade for Elite Members

Bedroom Entrance

To the right of the bedroom area was a desk and chair, across from the Bed.

Marriott Suite Upgrade for Elite Members

Desk/Chair

 

Marriott Suite Upgrade for Elite Members

Further to the left was yet another additional TV, followed by a closet across from the second bathroom.

(NOTE:  Hopefully this gives you a good layout and size of the suite.  I apologize for some of the missing photos, as I may have accidentally deleted them….:( )

My Thoughts on the Suite

In truth, I realized as soon as I set foot in the suite that it was a bit ridiculous. After all a sofa, two bathrooms, three TVs, and 10 chairs seemed to be a bit much for just one person!

That said, it was quite nice to be able to spread out and get some work done. It was a perfect reprieve from the busy streets of Boston, courtesy of Marriott’s friendly, courteous service.

In fact, I thought the service was quite commendable and that Yvonne should be recognized.  In that same way that I feel it is my prerogative to report when a program doesn’t do well, I feel compelled to brag on a program–and specific agent, so I will definitely pass this along to my contacts within Marriott!

To The Exotic and Beyond

The Question

As a travel blogger and an award travel consultant, I like to at least think I’ve heard it all when it comes to exotic locations.  But a reader email and comment on my Award Booking page had me baffled and intrigued:

Reader Molly asked the following question:

I want to use miles/points for two to get to and from Antarctica. What airline is going to be my best bet for this?

Fascinating question, indeed.

I was asked a rather intriguing question the other day and I thought it would make a great blog post. The question? How can I travel to Antarctica?

What’s the Best Way to Get to Antarctica?

After much research, I have found out that there is no easy way to answer this question. There are many factors to weigh before making this flight.
 

Question #1 – Where Am I Leaving From?

There are several different destinations to leave for Antarctica. While this list is not complete, it does list the major cities from which you can fly.
  1. Capetown, South Africa
  2. Punta Arenas, Chile
  3. Australia (Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, and Melbourne)
 

Question #2 – How Do I Want to Travel?

There are many options for traveling to Antarctica. The most common way is by sea. There are also a few options for flying and landing on a air carrier that will then complete the journey by sea.

Question #3 – How Long Do I Want to Stay?

Do you want to see Antarctica without having to endure it’s harsh conditions? There are several options that are available for flying tours.  While this may not appeal to everyone, doing so would be the most comfortable way to do so, in my opinion.  And one of these provides a very, very unique experience–I’ll just leave it at that!
Would you rather stay overnight? There are several different groups that provide travel and then a camp like experience.
Want to explore Antarctica? No problem! There are options for this as well.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are several unique options for travel to Antarctica. Stay tuned, as further posts will delve deeper into these options!

MegaBonus Returns for Spring 2014!

It’s that time again, folks!  That’s right. The Marriott Mega Bonus is right around the corner again!  You could earn up to two free nights!

Marriott MegaBonus Returns

Marriott MegaBonus Returns

The Conditions:

To be eligible, you must register before March 31, and stay between February 1 and April 30, 2014.

You earn a free night at a Category 1-4 hotel after the second paid stay, up to 2 nights.

 

Marriott Hotel Categories

You can find links to each of these hotel categories, below:

Marriott Category 1
Marriott Category 2
Marriott Category 3
Marriott Category 4

What Defines a “Stay”?

  • consecutive nights (aka more than 1) spent at the same hotel
  • the stay must occur between February 1 and April 30, 2014
  • only one room per hotel is counted towards member’s stay

The Conditions:

As mentioned, the bonus nights earned can be redeemed for future stay at any participating category 1-4 Marriott hotel, in a single or double occupancy room.  And bonus nights cover the cost of room and applicable room taxes only.  Free nights earned are not transferable to another member, andexpire one year after date of issuance.

Please allow 3-5 business days after your second qualifying stay for the bonus to post to your Marriott Rewards account.

Is This a Good Deal?

No, in my opinion, this is a great deal!  Honestly, what other hotel program regularly allows you to earn a free night for every nights stayed?  Be sure to take advantage!

5 Things I Learned at the Chicago Seminars

Recently, I had the pleasure to attend the Chicago Seminars, which is a gathering for bloggers extraordinaire, frequent travelers, and those that want to stretch their money to be able to travel further.

Now, I know that attendees of these events are explicitly asked to not disclose any “tidbits” picked up  In keeping with that, I won’t share anything that is “secretive,”.

The more I attend events like this and Frequent Traveler University, the more the aim becomes interacting with new and old friends alike, rather than the acquisition of new knowledge.  Still, there were a few things I managed to learn:

1.  Use Tools to Automate Travel Hacking

I learned from dlouise37 that leveraging the points game, or travel hacking as it is referred to on occasion , can be automated through applications that mimic the actions you ask them to, such as iMacro.  Thus, by signing up for a bonus just once, you can automate the process to do the same for all of your family members and friends.

2.  A Great Way to Use Alaska Miles

A program that does not get much attention is Alaska MileagePlan.  I found out that you can redeem 70,000 Alaska miles to book a First Class ticket to South Africa, WITH a stopover in Hong Kong.

3.  Rental Cars

Travel bloggers, by nature, tend to focus on miles and points.  One subject that does not get a lot of press is how to save on rental cars.  But by booking through third parties like Car Rental Savers, Priceline, and even Costco Travel, you can save money on car rentals.  Also, EuropCar can be great for some  international rentals.

Costco Travel

You Can Save BIG on Car Rentals with Costco Travel

And as for the insurance rental companies always tout, it may be worth something.  I thought that rental insurance, such as the type that the American Express Platinum card provides might be worth it.

4.  Hands On Award Booking

Award booking, as I am well aware, can be an iterative solutions.  Which is why I was elated to find out that ANA’s award search tool can search for availability, one week at a time on a particular route!

5.  ExpertFlyer

Finally, I also learned that ExpertFlyer (a paid tool) includes built-in functionality to specify the routing on a particular revenue ticket.  Thus, you can effectively select and de-select which airports, cities, or zones you fly through.  In particular, this can be useful on mileage runs, where you can choose the most advantageous (longest) routing.

Two Years of Blogging & What I’ve Been Up To Recently

On this date, two years ago I started my blog!  I would like to thank my blog readers, who have had made it well worth it!

Over the last two years, many of you have been a stakeholder in my job search.  I reflect my experience being laid off from my job two years ago, with thankfulness and gratitude, as this ushered in a new season in my life that I do not regret.

I am thankful for the activities I have been able to experience, and for the ability to travel across the US, as well as taking a trip to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Tokyo this past summer.   (A trip report is long overdue…)

But I am thankful to God also for the opportunities that have presented themselves.  In addition to taking on a part-time job to make ends meet, I have been able to use my passion for miles, travel to support myself.

Recently though,  I was offered a job as QA Engineer.  Not a position that I originally considered in my job search, but as I have learned, life is about what you make of the path you are given!

So if you have noticed I have slacked off on posting, now you know why.  Now for some more mileage runs…

It’s About Time… The FAA Approves Electronic Device Use from Gate-to-Gate

The FAA announced today that handheld portable electronic devices can be used gate to gate, and do not need to be powered off during takeoff and landing.  The application of this will be carried out on an airline by airline basis, but this policy is expected to be rolled out by the end of this year.

A important note is that this precludes the use of laptops, as they are considered large enough to be a projectile item.

My first thought when I heard this news was poor Mr. Alec Baldwin.  I am sure he will be having some Words with his Friends…

Marriott MegaBonus Promotion Returns

While Marriott consistently gets bad press from other bloggers, it is my opinion that Marriott is undervalued and consistently delivers.  One example is their quarterly Mega Bonus Promotion.

Anyway, Marriott’s MegaBonus Promotion has returned.  After Who doesn’t love a chance to get free nights, for just two stays!

Marriott Rewards MegaBonus gives you more power to earn.

THE OFFER:

This is actually the announcement of the fall/winter MegaBonus, where you can earn a free night at any Category 1-5 property worldwide, for every two (separate) stays at Marriott properties.  The spring MegaBonus runs at participating Marriott hotels between September 15, 2013 and January 15, 2014.

TERMS & CONDITIONS:

Unfortunately, there is a limit of 2 free nights, but I suppose one could use separate Marriott Rewards accounts if they were desperate…  Just make sure to register by November 15, 2013Full Terms & Conditions can be found on Marriott’s website.

A Tale of Two Hyatt Stays

On a recent trip–which I will soon have a trip report for, I visited Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Tokyo for 90,000 miles on a US Airways award.

I had two award nights and a suite upgrade to use from signing up for the Hyatt Visa last year.  Thus, two of my stays were at Hyatt properties–the first at the Grand Hyatt Dubai, and the latter at the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

Yet the customer recognition I received at these two hotels was a world apart.  Don’t get me wrong customer service was excellent, and the Japanese are incredibly nice.  It’s just that I left the Park Hyatt Tokyo with a sour taste in my mouth when leaving the Park Hyatt Tokyo.

Loyalty programs, in my opinion are not about meeting needs, but rewarding customers by going above and beyond.  If I perhaps do seem over-entitled, than when given why else would I repeatedly stay with one chain, when given the choice? As many others do, I vote with my wallet, and if I don’t get the response I feel that I deserve, I walk away!

THE STAYS

To give Hyatt it’s due, I feel I should describe my great experience at the Grand Hyatt Dubai.  At check-in I was informed that I had been upgraded to a Deluxe room, which was rather spacious.  And I didn’t even ask!

Grand Hyatt Dubai Deluxe King Room

Grand Hyatt Dubai Deluxe King Room

Grand Hyatt Dubai Deluxe King Room

Even the closet was spacious!

In stark contrast lies Exhibit B–the Park Hyatt, with its lack of common sense.

My understanding of how a loyalty program should operate is exemplified best in a Delta TV ad from 2012.  It’s about “Never letting the rules overrule common sense.”

See, I staid at the Park Hyatt Tokyo–regarded as one of the finest hotels in the world.  I had an award night to use, in addition to a suite upgrade, which Hyatt allows to be used only on paid stays.  Rates were a little pricey (~$420 or so, though normal for Tokyo), but I was willing to pay a premium one night in exchange for the full benefit of the suite.

Which, in all fairness, was a rather large room.  After I used the suite upgrade, I was suddenly dismayed that the suite was only 100 square meters…. That is, until I did the conversion and realized that’s over 1,000 square feet.  Large by any standards, and certainly Japanese standards!

Park Hyatt Suite-1

Anyway, in voting with my wallet for Hyatt, I felt obliged to have Hyatt go above and beyond by allowing me to stay in the suite for my second, award night.

THINGS GO SOUTH…

But after being checked into the hotel in the suite (which was great!) I was informed there would be an issue in extending my suite experience.  I was on a discounted rate already (a whole $30… whooptey do) I would have to pay an additional amount of $300, despite the suite being available.

Initially I tried to understood it from the hotel’s perspective, but the more I thought about it this was an egregious offense by the hotel, and one that the hotel, its staff, management, and the entire Hyatt brand should feel ashamed of.

By not allowing me to stay–for free, in the suite for the second night, they were deeming me not important enough, especially when they did not end up selling the suite.

I did bargain with the staff a fair amount–and on more than one occasion, and eventually got the fee down to $200.  I had trouble justifying that for a single night, especially when I figured I would get little use of the room.

I don’t think I was rude, yet their policies resulted in having a down-graded (standard) room the following evening.  I am not one to be thankless, but this left me feeling worthless and not welcome.

And it’s not like I don’t have clout–what I would call cumulative customer buying power, which I have accrued from having both Platinum status with Hyatt and using their co-branded Visa card.  In other words, I’ve vested a large personal interest in Hyatt.

Which is where I think Hyatt failed me. In contrast to other loyalty programs, like their competitor Marriott that I love, adore, and hold status with, they allowed simple rules to get in the way of going the extra mile.  The suite was available and unoccupied, but they deemed I wasn’t important enough.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Hotels that only meet basic needs may be fine for some, but the decision of  the Park Hyatt Tokyo to belligerently
refuse to do the right thing for me means that I am likely to walk away from the Hyatt brand altogether.  I don’t believe you’re important enough to me.

And Hyatt, if you happen to be reading this, the only way I am likely to stay loyal to you is if you offer to refund ALL room charges from my stay.  Fair enough?

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