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PRPS E03: Bad Parents, Euro Carriers and Desert UFOs

European Carrier Valuations

A couple weeks ago we ran over the Three Wise Men, last week we took a look at Asian carriers, this week we’re heading East, to the land of great beer, great cars and a terrible record on free speech, Europe.

We’re actually only going to take a look at Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue program and British Airways Avios. Though, for what I consider a depressing read, have a look at our take on Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club. With an ultra-low award availability of 8.33%, the ACR value is abysmal. Furthermore, I’m skipping over Lufthansa’s Miles and More program for now, only because I haven’t made a priority of valuing them. Obviously not because of size, they’re bigger than both of the previously mentioned. It’s because they’re not a big three transfer partner.

Let’s start with the good number 95.83%, that is the percentage of our hypothetical routes that we were able to find award availability on. That’s right up in US domestic carrier territory. This statement is a bit contrary to our analysis on pointsreckoning.com. This is due to the fact that the writeup was done while we still considered international first-class availability in our valuations. Considering most airlines are moving to two-class cabins, at least on trans-Atlantic routes, we thought it best to exclude going forward.

Our ACR Value for the month was a solid, if unremarkable 1.04¢ per mile, and our non-zero average was 1.45¢. That said, Flying Blue does offer some great opportunities for those wiling to be flexible. Our best for the month came in at 5¢ per mile, that was on a business-class ticked from London to New York. Cash price was $3,277 or 62,500 miles plus $421.18 in fees. Finally, we had a full 10 redemptions in ou great and good categories, this would be anything with a value over 3¢ per mile.

Moving on to British Airways and their Executive Club earning Avios. Sadly, we consider them a little less valuable than the previously discussed program by Air France/KLM. Staying in the approach pattern here, let’s start with award availability, only 68.06%. Not awful, not great. Actually, on par for a foreign airline.

Our overall ACR Value was just .8¢, primarily due to excessive fees, which we deduct from the cash price, in order to accurately see exactly how much value you’re getting for your points or miles. The non-zero average was 1.72¢ and our best redemption was 7.91¢. The latter coming from a business-class seat from Frankfurt to DC.

So, the takeaway here, is that Flying Blue is more reliable, while BA offer more upside.

PRPS Weekly-ish News

American UFO over Arizona

UFOs in the Desert

UFO’s in the desert. Who doesn’t love a little mystery. I sure do. And that’s exactly what we’ve got here. The FAA recently released an audio recording of the interaction between air traffic control at Albuquerque center, American Airlines flight 1095 and a private Learjet.

I’ve got the audio transcript for everyone here in a second, but first a little setup. A Learjet pilot flying near Tucson reported an object flew over his aircraft. Keep in mind, he was flying at 37,000 feet. In a shockingly un-surprised tone, ATC responds that nothing should be flying in his immediate vicinity. Nevertheless, the ATC operator asks an incoming American A319 en route to Dallas if he witnessed anything. Sure enough, a couple minutes go by and he reports the same. I edited out communication not related to the sighting. So this is the abridged version, have a listen.

The FAA claims it wasn’t a military aircraft, as they would have been informed. Furthermore, the size and speed of the object appear to rule out a weather balloon. So, what was it? We’ll likely never know. Though maybe, as the US government has never been one to withhold information from the public…scratch that, yeah, we’ll never know.

AeroMexico Business Class Earn Reduction

Now, some sad news for Aeromexico flyers looking to credit their miles to Delta’s Skypeso program. A new mileage chart has been published showing a reduction in Medallion Qualification Miles. Prior to the new chart taking effect today, MQM’s earned at a rate of 200% on all business fare classes. However, the new chart is reducing this. Starting April 1st, 2018, only full fare, J-class tickets earn 200%. Lower fare, C, D and I business-class reservations will only earn 150%.

New vs Old MQM Earn Rate On Aeromexico
Full-fare Business(J) Discount Business(C/D/I)
MQM Earn Rate Post 04/01/18 200% 150%
MQM Earn Rate Pre 04/01/18 200% 200%

On the surface, this doesn’t appear to be that big of a deal. And alone, it’s really not. A domestic carrier lowering the earn rate on a foreign alliance partner isn’t likely to affect a significant number of people. However, I’m including it in today’s episode, because it’s another symptom of a much larger trend, the slow devaluation of American frequent flyer programs.

Bad Parents Flying Southwest

Soutwest making headlines again. This week, we’ve got the case of a peanut allergy and parents looking to save a few bucks by placing their allergy suffering child in a potential death trap.

Let’s start with the setup. Earlier this week, the Calvert family was flying from Atlanta to Houston. This family has a 9 year old son with severe nut allergies. Worth mentioning, is the fact that the allergy is so severe, that even the presence of airborne. peanut dust can trigger a reaction. Now the parents, to their credit, did appear to make all efforts to inform the airline of their kid’s medical condition. This included a note on the original booking and a pre-departure reminder at the gate.

However, despite this, once under way, a flight attended handed Chelsia Calvert a bag of peanuts. It was at this point, that, according to her, she “broke down”. Also not in contention is the fact that the child subsequently had an allergic reaction that required the use of an EpiPen to treat. For it’s part, Southwest released the following statement in regards to their general policy regarding nut allergies.

Southwest Airlines Nut Allergy Policy

Now, the parents say they have questions and want answer. Just speculating here, but the first question might be: “Why the f**k did we, as parents, place our child in a big metal tube, 30,000 feet in the sky that’s know to contain a bunch of peanuts?” Here’s our opinion of how the fault breaks down. 20% goes to Southwest, 80% goes to the parents. The victim culture in America is really getting annoying.

Southwest Nut Allergy Reaction Fault

Sure, Southwest could have handled the situation better. But ultimately, it was the parents who knowingly placed their offspring in a potential death trap. Let’s consider for a second that Southwest had performed flawlessly, and not served any nuts on board. Wouldn’t that still leave the plane filled with nut crumbs and dust from prior flights? It’s not like aircraft interiors are pressure washed in-between each flight. Alright, #rantover

Strategy

Recently, I was introduced to a real dandy little piece of tech. Initially brought to my attention via a spammy looking email from American, was a Chrome plugin simply named the AAdvantage eShopping Button. At first, thinking it was a bit gimmicky, I dismissed it. However, upon a bit of internal reflection, I realized that shopping buttons could serve a couple very important functions. To remind one that earning potential exists, and to instantly compare rates.

AAdvantage eShopping Button

Quick intro to shopping portals for the new playas in the points and miles game. Long story short, merchants pay ad commissions to publishers. In the case of a portal, the publisher is an airline or credit card issuer. They refer you to a site, then get a little kickback from the subsequent sale. You earn when the portal sends a little bit of that commission back your way. Think of it like a rebate.

Ultimate Rewards Shopping Portal

A shopping button simplifies this process. Instead of logging in to a portal, one simply navigates to the merchant of their choice, then the plugin renders a referral link on the fly. Basically, a little reminder that you could be earning additional points or miles on your upcoming purchase. And if you want that Singapore Suite, you’re going to need all the points you can get.

Chase Ultimate Rewards Value 03.08.18

In our most recent valuation, we assigned and ACR Value of 2.19¢ to a Chase Ultimate Rewards. If you were to shop at a merchant offering a 5 points bonus, on top of the 1 point from everyday spend, you’d whip yourself up a nice little 13% return on spend. Not bad for doing nothing.

Currently, shopping button plugins are available from American, United, Southwest and Alaska. I’m really hoping that Chase, Amex and Citi jump on this bandwagon.