July 21, 2014
For the past two weeks my family and I have been mostly off-line during our European vacation. While we were away, the big and horrible news was the Malaysian Airlines tragedy. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this tragedy.
Regarding points and miles, there were several minor things of note:
- Kimpton rolled out “Karma Rewards,” a new version of their loyalty program.
- Avianca LifeMiles began blocking Lufthansa First Class Awards and then announced new (mostly worse) Star Alliance redemption rates beginning October 15 2014. No one likes it when award prices increase, but none of the increases appear (to me) to be out of line with the rest of the industry. And, the fact that they’ve given us fair warning about the changes is a great thing.
- Chase is dumping the 7% annual dividend from the Sapphire Preferred card and adding primary rental car insurance, worldwide, instead. That seems like a good trade-off to me, especially considering that Ultimate Rewards travel often offers very good rental car rates. So, it should be possible to pay with points with your Sapphire Preferred card and still get full rental car collision damage protection. A good alternative to the Sapphire Preferred card’s 7% dividend is the 10% annual bonus earned with the combination of the Freedom card and a Chase checking account
- Citi AA Executive 100K offer gone, then back, then gone again. While on vacation, I avoided work at all costs, but I did occasionally read blog posts by other authors. At one point many of the blogs announced that the Citi Executive 100K offer with a $200 statement credit was no longer available. I made a mental note to update my best credit card offers page, but the mental note was quickly lost to the recesses of my vacation-stalled brain. Then, when I next checked in on the blogs, the offer was back. Cool! I was glad I hadn’t made any changes. But now, the offer appears to be dead again. You might be able to get in on it still by calling to apply, but I don’t know that for sure.
About the flights…
While some were making fun of blogger “Vendoming,” my family and I were ironically out Vendoming away. As I outlined in the post titled “Vacation Notice,” we hopped over to Toronto on a Delta flight, then flew to Europe on Lufthansa 1st class (Toronto to Munich) and onward to Paris in business class. In Paris, we stayed at the Park Hyatt Vendome for 5 nights. We then took the high speed TGV train to Switzerland, changed trains in Basel and de-trained in Lucerne where we spent 4 nights at the Radisson Blu. From there we took trains and cable cars to get to Murren in the Swiss Alps where we stayed that the Hotel Bellevue. We wrapped up the trip with a 3 night stay in Zurich at the Park Hyatt. Our return flights were: Zurich to Munich business class (Lufthansa), Munich to Toronto 1st class (Lufthansa), Toronto to Detroit (Delta).
Lufthansa 1st class was very nice. As expected with an international first class flight, we were offered champagne and caviar, given pajamas and slippers, and our lie-flat seats were prepared with comfortable bedding when we were ready to sleep. It wasn’t Singapore Suites nice, but still it was very nice. With Lufthansa, flying international 1st class entitles you to the 1st class lounge in Germany which offers excellent food (order off the menu or grab from the buffet), private bathroom/showers, etc. And, if Munich is your international gateway, passport control is handled inside the lounge which makes it a really easy non-event. If you’re lucky, you may get a chauffeured Mercedes ride to your next flight. This was our ride to the plane that took us to Paris:
And, upon return to Munich at the end of our trip, a driver was waiting to take us back to the lounge:
All of these things were really nice and special, but in the end I realized that I probably wouldn’t do it again. We could have flown a perfectly nice business class product across the Atlantic directly from Detroit, but instead hopped over to Toronto to experience all out in-flight luxury. The extra hop in each direction was a hassle which required terminal changes and extra border control hoops. And, I can’t really say that the extra in-air luxury was a big deal. At least, it wasn’t to me. If given the option to fly Lufthansa first class through Germany without extra stops, I would do so more for the benefits associated with the first class lounges than for the extra comfort in the air.
For those interested, I’ll follow up soon with some highlights from our adventures in Paris and Switzerland. For those not interested, I’ll get back to my usual points and miles blogging very soon.