I’ve made no secret about my disappointment with Delta Air Lines and their knee-jerk, ill-informed, and out of touch decision to prevent their customers from using ExpertFlyer. I expressed that disappointment in this space, and in what I believe to be one of only two critical notes I’ve ever sent Delta. I got the same form reply as everyone else.

Contrast that to this news from ExpertFlyer:

Dear Marshall,

As part of our continued partnership with American Airlines, we are pleased to announce that ExpertFlyer now supports full US Airways Award & Upgrade searching and alerting. The addition of awards and upgrades from US Airways operated flights will complement the existing American Airlines operated award/upgrade data already available to subscribers of ExpertFlyer. In addition Flight Alerts can now be created for award and upgrade inventory for US Airways operated flights.

The newly supported classes are:

O – First – Award/Upgrades, also complimentary Preferred upgrades into First
J – Business – Upgrades into Business using Certificate upgrades for ALL applicable routes
I – Business – Award/Miles Upgrade
X – Economy – Award

Click here for the full list of airlines supported for Award & Upgrade searching and alerting.

We hope you enjoy the new addition to ExpertFlyer.

Sincerely, The ExpertFlyer.com Team

It is very gratifying to see that the new team at American is more in touch with its most frequent flyers (on this issue, at least), and has now made award and upgrade availability searchable for its US Airways customers, rather than moving in the other direction. Bravo American!

-MJ, September 17, 2014

Let me be clear – I tip. I probably over-tip, but I believe in rewarding good service when rendered. As a guy who takes a lot of cruises, tipping is just part of the deal. That said, I have to wonder at times if the tipping culture in the USA is getting out of hand? Of course, I’m speaking about yesterday’s news that Marriott International will soon be leaving an envelope on our pillows for tipping the housekeeper.

envelope plz

While I can’t claim to be 100 percent compliant with housekeeping tips at the hotels I stay in, I try to make a habit of leaving a tip, especially if I’m upgraded to a larger room or suite and there’s a lot more real estate for housekeeping to clean. I’m not particularly “put out” by the idea of an envelope on my pillow, but I don’t think it will make me any more likely to tip hotel housekeeping than I already was. What the envelope, and the internet buzz around it have done, is lead me to ask “where do we draw the line on tipping?” Who’s next? Airline employees? Train operators? Public subway drivers? The mail man/woman?

Has the tipping culture gotten out of hand in the USA? Here’s a new reader poll.

Has the tipping culture gotten out of hand in the USA?

View Results

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Many of us are now carrying the Citi Executive® / AAdvantage® World Elite™ MasterCard® thanks to the 100,000 mile promotion earlier this year. Interest in this card perked up a bit when Amex Platinum card members lost access to the Admirals Club and US Airways Club lounges following the merger of American Airlines and US Airways. According to an email I received from Citi this morning, effective November 23, 2014, Cit Executive Card members will receive new or improved coverage in a number of areas including:

  • trip delay protection,
  • baggage delay protection,
  • medical evacuation coverage,
  • worldwide car rental coverage (still secondary),
  • trip cancellation/interruption protection,
  • return protection,
  • missed event ticket protection (ironically being deleted from Amex Platinum coverage in December), and
  • damage & theft purchase protection.

These are all travel-related areas that the Amex Platinum Card is known for, and they do represent improvements in the Citi Executive card. However, you’ll notice that things like reimbursement for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fees, a $200 airline fee reimbursement, Cruise Privileges, etc. are missing. Of course, there’s also access to the American Express Centurion Lounges.

It’s good to see Citi upping the benefits of the Citi Executive card. In my opinion, the card is as good of a way as any to access the Admirals Club, and it offers respectable benefits and protections for travelers. However, the Amex Platinum Card offers most of the same traveler protections, reimbursement for known traveler options, and access to the best domestic US airport lounges. For these reasons and more, the Platinum Card is still the one for this traveler, but the best card for you will depend on your personal situation.

-MJ, September 15, 2015

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A few days in the office this week before leaving for Vegas. Good times! Let’s take a look at our weekly recap.

And this week at MJ on Travel -

  • Cruise Line Loyalty – Carnival

A word on cruise line loyalty, and no doubt more, this week at MJ on Travel.

-MJ, September 14, 2014


It’s not lost on me that the majority of people that drop by BoardingArea are frequent flyers and airline miles/hotel points hobbyists. That said, I know there are frequent floaters among us too! I’ve explored the biggest cruise line loyalty programs in this space before, and it’s time for an updated look. As I noted then, cruise line loyalty programs are mainly perk-based with the level of attention and perks you receive rising with your number of cruises or days at sea. Our new series will include a greater focus on the points side of cruising. Yes, most cruise lines have some sort of credit card based “points” program that is separate from their “loyalty” program. Historically, the cruise points programs have not been great deals, and for the most part, that’s still true.

IMG_0496Will a Changing Loyalty Landscape Impact Cruise Line Programs?

The loyalty landscape is always changing, and the evolving revenue-based picture on the airline side is very likely to impact the individual value of being loyal. I never thought I’d say this, but it’s entirely possible that the value of cruise points programs could rise to a point of being at least worth thinking about depending on your personal situation as airline loyalty programs become less valuable to many.

What Drives Cruise Line Loyalty?

Loyalty to a particular cruise line is not that different than being loyal to your favorite airline. Product, places, and people. If a particular line offers the kind of amenities you are looking for (onboard accommodations, activities, loyalty perks, etc), sails itineraries that interest you from ports that are easily accessible, and employs people that provide what you perceive to be great service, you’ll find it easy to be loyal to that particular line. I would even add a second component to the “people” equation – the people on board. Different lines tend to attract different groups of customers. Young and actives might gravitate more towards Carnival, NCL, or Royal Caribbean, while 40-somethings and up might prefer Celebrity or Princess. The beauty of cruising is that you can make it what you want, and there are no hard and fast rules on age groups, activity levels, etc. The level of onboard perks and attention you receive can be a big driver of loyalty to a particular line. In my own cruising life, I find myself frequently saying “but if we sail so and so, we get such and such” whenever I think about straying. It’s an evil game. :) What isn’t a big driver, to many, is the idea of amassing points for free cruises…..but that could be changing.

What’s the Deal?

In our cruise line loyalty series, we’ll explore in detail, the “points” programs of the various cruise lines. We’ll also look at the bank programs, Arrival Miles, Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, WorldPoints, and cash back. We’ll start this week with the biggest cruise company, Carnival Corporation, and go from there.

-MJ, September 14, 2014




CONTEST CLOSED – Winner Named Below

I was cleaning out random receipts from my travel wallet this morning and stumbled across a United Club pass that expires in February 2015. It’s not likely at all that I’ll need it, so I thought the best thing to do was to give it to a reader. We’ll keep it simple:

  • Comment to this post.
  • Include your email address in the email field so I can contact you if you win.
  • The contest will close at 5PM EDT today, September 13, 2014.
  • I will choose the winner randomly using random.org shortly thereafter.

Have fun, keep the comments clean, and preferably include a travel tip or two! :) But say anything you want.

-MJ, September 13, 2014

Update: The winner is commenter # 18, David.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 5.09.15 PM

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I’ve blogged about Thanks Again Rewards before. Thanks Again is a rewards program that most of us that fly are at least tacitly aware of because they partner with a lot of airports. You earn rewards for parking, shopping at the store, airport restaurants, etc. I personally miss being near an Oxxo dry cleaner, which earned a few miles for my laundry too! You can see which airports and local businesses near you participate by clicking here.

At it’s heart, the program is simple – you earn 1 mile or 2 hotel points per dollar spent at participating merchants. A little lunch before the flight, etc., and you get a few miles. It’s by no means a bonanza, but since I’m picking up a few miles for something I’m going to do anyway, I have registered all of my credit cards with the program. They alert you via email when you’ve earned miles, and starting perhaps a month or so (maybe 2) back, I began receiving emails like this.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 9.12.17 AM

I can’t find where Uber is a Thanks Again program participant on the program’s website, but every transaction I’ve had with Uber for a while now has resulted in one of these emails. When looking at my transaction history with Thanks Again, I see that I’m not earning any miles with each Uber ride, but the amounts are counting towards the $1000 in quarterly spend that will net you a 5,000 mile (or 10,000 hotel point) quarterly bonus. Most of the big airline programs partner with Thanks Again as does Hilton HHonors. You can review the complete list of miles/points program participants here.

In closing, I’m not presenting this as a big miles opportunity, but since it’s easy to participate, one might as well register. It’s hard for me to envision spending $1000 in a quarter at airport merchants or the other businesses that participate near me, but I suppose it’s possible. The fact that Uber rides are netting an accrual towards the spend needed for a 5,000 mile quarterly bonus is just gravy. New to Uber? You can use my promo code, ubermjontravel, to get $30 off your first ride, and I’ll get $30 off my next ride too.

-MJ, September 13, 2014

Just a little anecdotal evidence if you’re thinking about booking holiday flights. I know we still have to get through Thanksgiving to get to Christmas, but for the first time in years (think Independence Air years), MrsMJ and I are flying during the holidays. A few days ago it became apparent that we were going to need to be in multiple places this year, so I shopped for flights on a whim.

Our routing needs are:

  • Atlanta – Raleigh
  • Raleigh – Tampa
  • Tampa – Atlanta

I didn’t expect positive results given the bit of shopping I’ve been doing to get us to Quantum of the Seas over the Thanksgiving weekend, but I was pleasantly surprised. Leaving a couple days before the big day, and returning the Sunday after, I was able book this for $300 and change per person with Delta. As far as I’m concerned, that’s pretty darn good. This isn’t meant to promise any deals, but simply serve as a heads up. Start shopping for flights now. If you see a price you’re comfortable with, you may find it advantageous to go ahead and book now. I’m pretty pleased with these result.

-MJ, September 12, 2014

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There are enough people in the blogosphere talking about things like innovative spending strategies, gift cards, and whatnot. I rarely post about such things here for a few reasons. First, I’m not doing anything that anyone else isn’t. Second, I’m not any better at it than anyone else. Finally, everyone else is already posting about it, so why pile on? I use that space for cruise stuff. :) However, I can’t let the upcoming demise of Amazon Payments as we know it go by without saying a few words.

AP was good while it lasted. While the volumes weren’t massive, when you look at the big picture, 12,000 miles is 12,000 miles. I’d come to depend on my “arrangement” like an old friend, but come next month, my old friend will be gone. I have no doubt I’ll find a new one, but I’m going to take a little time to reflect. RIP – AP.

-MJ, September 12, 2014

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Thirteen years ago today, at this very moment, I was about to walk into the middle of something that there was no training and no playbook for. A lot has changed about flying in those 13 years, but we still travel. I’m traveling today, and will be headed for the airport when you read this. I’ve made it a point to fly on this day. And I’ve also made it a point to never forget it.

This Blog was Originally posted September 11, 2009

Thirteen years ago today, my morning began much like any other early fall day.  I was roaming the airport in search of coffee and a bagel, mentally celebrating a successful morning launch of kick-off flights at Washington National Airport (DCA) on September 11, 2001.  I was one of the Customer Service Managers at DCA on duty for American Airlines that day.

During a visit with our operations agent, I heard a radio call from our first inbound flight of the day.  The crew had a question, “had we heard anything about an incident in New York involving a United flight?”  The operations agent and I both looked at each other in agreement that we had not, but I immediately got on the nearest computer to find cnn.com.  I’ll never forget the picture of smoke billowing from the first tower, and the caption “Aircraft Hits World Trade Center.  Details to Follow.”  I immediately went to our conference room where I knew I would find access to a television.  By the time I arrived there, the second tower had been struck, and the newscasters were spinning replays of the aircraft striking each tower.

By this time phones were ringing and my boss, the station general manager had arrived in the conference room.  He took a call, while other managers from flight, flight service and maintenance began to gather.  Upon hanging up the phone, he stated that they think 77 from Dulles is involved.  And with that, things got real.  I immediately returned to operations where our ops agent informed me that two flights that had just pushed were returning to the gate.  He’d just gotten off the phone with dispatch, and learned that American was grounding all of its flights and that we may have had an airplane involved in New York.

I proceeded out to the gates to assist as our flights returned.  The first passengers were coming off and I was immediately stopped by one of them who wanted to know about the possibility of getting rebooked on another airline.  No, I’m not making that up!  She was nice enough about it, but wasn’t interested in giving me a minute to figure out what was going on.  As we stood there discussing the situation at DCA’s gate 28, she happened to glance out towards the north, and immediately asked “what’s that?”  I turned to see the strangest color of smoke rising just above the tree line in the direction of the Pentagon.  I responded that I wasn’t sure, but that I thought that it might be a good idea to leave.  Within seconds, an announcement was made throughout the terminal to evacuate the building.  I didn’t know it at the time, but our flight 77 had just crashed into the Pentagon.

I could tell you a lot more about that day, and the weeks that followed.  The mass exodus from the airport on foot as F-16s criss-crossed the skies above, and the sick smell of burning jet fuel wafting through the air.  I was certain more aircraft would follow at this point, and half expected to see one plow into the Washington Monument, the Capitol or for that matter, our airport at any minute.  I could tell you about taking a team of airport agents to Dulles to stand in while the folks at Dulles grieved for the loss of one of their beloved colleagues, a 45 year AA employee, not to mention the shock of being the origin of flight 77.  I could also talk about walking through an empty National Airport terminal at 5:30am a few weeks later.  It was an eerie place with most of the lights turned off and none of the escalators running, the silence only broken by the sound of my shoes hitting the floor as I walked through on my way to pick up the lay off packages I would have to deliver to people that didn’t deserve it.  I could say a lot, but I won’t.  I think I’ve made my point.

I remember.

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