What Happened To AwardWallet?

If there is one essential tool for frequent flyers, it is AwardWallet.

If you are new to frequent flying, you can sign up for AwardWallet here for free.

Basically AwardWallet allows you to connect all your frequent flyer accounts and check the balances all in one place. Sort of like a Mint.com for your miles & points.

I have been using AwardWallet since 2009 and it is hands down the easiest way to track my entire family’s miles and points accounts across all programs.

All in total, my family and I have 73 accounts being tracked by AwardWallet.

Recent Award Wallet Updates

I recently logged in and noticed AwardWallet made some “customer enhancements”.

Some of them are definitely good like the security code check if you log in from a computer that you don’t normally use.

 

However I don’t know if it is just me but I am not a fan of the new interface.

New Award Wallet

I get that AwardWallet is trying to showcase that the service is now more secure like a vault but the new interface is so difficult to read because all the individual accounts blur together

FYI if you don’t remember what the old interface looked like, it looked like this.

While it wasn’t cutting edge, there was at least some color contrast between accounts and it was easy to use so I had no complaints.

 

AccountList

I am such a fan of AwardWallet that I did actually send them a detailed email telling them how I felt about the new interface and how it could be improved.

Anyway, I sincerely hope AwardWallet redesigns the interface or at a minimum, reverts back to the old look because overall the app is amazing and a lifesaver, it just is very difficult to read at this current moment.

I am curious if other people feel the same way about the “new” AwardWallet?

-Parag

 

Why You Should Always Check SkipLagged.com When Booking Airfare

For those of you that have been trying to book AA saver awards from smaller markets or saw Gary’s post on the topic, you are aware that AA seems to be blocking out almost all saver space for smaller cities.

For example, a one way economy ticket from St. Louis to Chicago is now 30,000 AA miles and it is priced like this until at least February 2016.

AA Blocking Saver Space

AA Blocking Saver Space

My parents just moved to St. Louis and I’ve been flying down there every couple of weekends from Chicago. Although it is only a 45 minute flight, a normal fare costs around $450 roundtrip!

Thankfully, I’ve been using Avios to book AA awards and because the distance is less than 750 miles, it has only been costing me 4,500 Avios each way…

Since AA is now blocking Saver space, I haven’t been able to use Avios this past week and had to look into purchasing a revenue ticket.

Thankfully I had some AMEX Platinum and PRG AA reimbursements (aka giftcards) that I used to offset the cost!

As I looked to book a flight home from St. Louis,  I fired up Kayak.com to check the prices and it was coming out to $221 oneway.

$221

$221 STL-ORD

I didn’t think that was a particularly good price since I could have also just taken Amtrak or MegaBus from St. Louis and it would cost only $27 and taken the same amount of time door to door.

Since Chicago is a hub for United, AA, and Southwest, I knew hidden city ticketing was possible.

So for example, St. Louis – Chicago – Columbus, OH might be cheaper than flying St. Louis – Chicago direct…

Enter SkipLagged

While I used to manually use ITA Matrix to do these kind of hidden city ticketing searches, SkipLagged.com now does it automatically for you.

If you aren’t familiar with the site, SkipLagged is of course being sued by United Airlines for providing this free service to customers and ironically the lawsuit only ended up drawing more free publicity to SkipLagged…

To use SkipLagged.com, I simply entered my airports and dates and it spit out what was the cheapest flights from STL-ORD.

SkipLagged Can Save You Serious Money!

SkipLagged Can Save You Serious Money!

As you can see the 5.03am United flight and the 6.35am AA flight to Milwaukee via ORD were both $147, while on Kayak the direct STL-ORD with the SAME EXACT SEAT ON THE SAME EXACT FLIGHT was $221!

Thanks to SkipLagged, I was able to save $74 (33%) off of my original ticket.

I went ahead and booked a St. Louis to Milwaukee via Chicago ticket and I simply hopped off in Chicago this morning instead of continuing onwards to Milwaukee.

Word of caution though, if you plan to use SkipLagged, many airlines are not fond of hidden city ticketing so make sure you don’t include your frequent flyer number.

Recap

In the end,when booking airline tickets, it really pays to take a few extra minutes and check some other sites.

By using SkipLagged, I was able to easily save 33% off the cost of my original ticket.

While it doesn’t always find you the cheapest fare for every search, it is a good tool to have in your backpocket.

-Parag

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JAL Business Class Review: ORD-NRT

Japan Airlines Business Class Review – ORD to NRT

Last December 2013, my cousin and I burned 90,000 US Airways miles and went to Thailand for 2 weeks.

I really enjoyed Thailand but didn’t have enough time to explore so with winter approaching in Chicago, I decided that January 2015 would be a perfect time to explore Southeast Asia for a couple weeks (which turned into a couple months).

This time a friend from school joined me and we decided to explore the famed “Banana Pancake Trail” starting in Hanoi, Vietnam and then basically making our way south to Ho Chi Min City, then cut over to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat, and then hopefully make our way to Southern Thailand.

This was the first trip I’ve ever taken where everything (logistics, lodging, transportation) hadn’t been explicitly laid out in advance. The only thing we had planned was the general direction of where we were going after landing in Hanoi, which was SOUTH!

To get to Hanoi, I opted to burn my large bank of AA miles that I had stockpiled over the years.

The business class award was 50,000 one way on Japan Airlines, with a 5,000 rebate thanks to having a Citi AA card.

So in reality, the award only cost 45,000 miles!

I found the award by searching on British Airways.

Our itinerary ended up being:

  • ORD-NRT on JAL 777-300ER
  • NRT-HAN on JAL 787 Dreamliner

JAL 777-300ER Business Class Review

On our day of departure in January 2015, the weather in Chicago was about -20F so we were extremely lucky to not have our flight canceled or severely delayed due to icing issues.

By sheer coincidence, another blogger The Points Jock was also on our exact same plane and cabin, which has never happened to me before.

The Points Jock said that JAL was his favorite business class so the expectations were set high. Outside of Thai Airways last year, I have not flown any other Asian carriers, so I was excited to try JAL out.

For me the funniest part of the flight was right before pulling back, I looked out the window and there was someone who didn’t look like a worker who was just taking photos of the plane like an AVgeek. Very strange!

Soft Product – 9/10 Points

Amenities

After boarding, the flight attendant came by to personally introduce herself, which was a nice touch.

We were offered a cup of green tea, along with our choice of orange juice or champagne.

The FA then brought us a Tumi amenity kit.

Of course, only Asian carriers would include a facemask in the amenity kit…

To my surprise, we were also offered a pajama top (but no bottoms), which you normally don’t receive in business class. I wasn’t sure if you were allowed to keep it and it was too small so I didn’t take it with me.

Food

After take off, we received dining menus, which as other people have noted is oddly named JAL BEDD SKY AUBERGE.

The menu had both a Western and Japanese option, as well as an on-demand menu.

We both opted for the Japanese option, which was pretty good.

Dining started with an Amuse Bouche of Prosciutto di Parma & Bocconcini Mozzarella along with Marinated Vegetables.

That was followed by a “bento box” of 9 different kobachi bowls along with some sake.

For the main course, there was sesame-crusted grilled salmon & stewed pork belly, along with steamed rice, miso soup, and Japanese pickles.

For dessert, we were served sabayon with fresh berries.

Overall, the Japanese menu was probably one of the most unique meals I have had on a plane and was overall pretty good.

Halfway through the 14 hour flight, I was hungry again so I decided to check out the on-demand menu which was surprisingly thorough and quite delicious.

I opted to try the ramen while my friend got the gnocchi. Both were quite tasty and possibly some of the best ramen I have had (on the ground or on a plane).

Service

I slept for most of the flight but my friend ended up staying up the entire flight and the service he received was top notch.

His drink was never empty and someone came to visually check on us every 10 minutes. If we ever needed anything, we simply had to flag them down.

I’ve never had service like that before and overall it was exceptional.

Hard Product – 9/10 Points

JAL has an interesting configuration for business class which I now think is one of the best mixes of privacy and convenience.

The configuration is 2-3-2 but each person basically has a semi-enclosed suite.

Although we were sitting near the window, due to the configuration every single person has direct access to the aisle. Even people sitting in the middle 3 seats.

Although lack of storage was an issue, everything about the seat was phenomenal.

Not only was the suite spacious but also had a large television and a privacy divider if you really wanted a fully private suite.

Since I was traveling with a friend, in our case it was nice to have the divider that could go up and down.

The Points Jock informed me that in the luggage bins there were free mattress pads which I used when I slept and it really made a significant difference.

Outside of first class, JAL is probably the best seat I have ever flown.

Overall – 9/10 Points

Personally, JAL was one of the best flying experiences I have ever had.

Not only was the service impeccable but also the seat and food was fantastic.

For some reason JAL definitely gets overshadowed by the other Asian carriers like Singapore, ANA, and Cathay (personally I have never flown any of those yet) but if you are going to Asia on AA miles, I would highly recommend trying out JAL because it is absolutely phenomenal.

-Parag