10,000 Flying Blue Bonus Miles With Hotel Stay

This is one of those rare opportunities where even booking an eco-lodge can earn you a huge miles bonus!  Flying Blue, the miles program for Air France, KLM, Kenya Airways & more have teamed up with Pointshound to offer 10,000 bonus miles for a 2 night hotel stay booked before 31 Dec!  The stay can be after that date but you must book and pay on a credit card before then.  Some eco-lodges can be found here or you can try smaller independent hotels in cities where birding is easily accessible.  I have a few 2 night stays coming up in Uganda & Zambia next year so I will be taking advantage of this promo.

For a limited time, earn 10,000 Award Miles as a bonus for your first 2-night stay! That’s on top of the Miles you earn for each night of your stay… Make your booking via the special PointsHound for Flying Blue website before 31 December 2016. It’s our best deal yet!

  • Choose the ‘Earn Miles’ option and pay with your credit card
  • Make your first booking for 2 consecutive nights before 31 December 2016
  • Earn Award Miles every night you stay, plus an extra 10,000 Award Miles as a bonus!
  • Earn Award Miles towards your next short-haul flight!

Full details, T&Cs

Flying Blue is one of my recommended programs and is very useful if you are traveling to Africa as Kenya Airways is one of the core members.  They also run some excellent promos every month where they reduce the required mileage on specified awards so if you are lucky enough to be traveling to one of their featured destinations you can save a bundle!

 

Chase Adds Flying Blue As A Partner – Good Options For Africa

I know every blogger and his brother has posted about Chase’s new rewards partner but I thought I would draw attention to the good deals to be found on Kenya Airways which is a Flying Blue member.  Flying Blue is one of my Top 8 programs for eco-travellers for a reason. Paying for flights within Africa can be very expensive.

For example Accra to Lusaka would cost $500-600 cash but only 15,000 Flying Blue miles plus surcharges of around $202 USD (most of which is airport tax, not YQ).

I have my eye on a Dubai-EBB (Entebbe/Kampala Uganda) for 20k Flying Blue per person for next year!

Top 8 Airline Miles Programs – 2016 Edition

I last made my recommendations of which airline miles programs to join back in 2012 so with all the changes I think it’s time for an update!  Which programs are still good?  Which ones no longer exist?  Which ones are less valuable than before?  How can Australians and Americans get free miles from credit cards?  Read on!

WHAT MAKES A PROGRAM “GOOD”?

  • I attribute greater value to programs which require minimal outlay of cash (no fuel surcharges) and better opportunities to get miles from everyday credit card spend and sign up bonuses.
  • “Buy miles 100% bonus” deals may have value to people who have cash to outlay but since this is a guide for cash poor people who want to travel I am not including them here.
  • These recommendations are for eco-tourists so I haven’t considered luxury travel to Europe and Asia redemptions.
  • Free miles from E-Rewards is a plus.
  • I have not taken elite programs into account in any of the below programs.
  • I am not a credit blogger so please use other resources to find the best deals on sign up bonuses.

1.  American Airlines AAdvantageOne World member

Has more options between USA and Australia on Qantas, Air Pacific or Air Tahiti Nui, also great for LAN or AA to South America and Africa via Qatar or direct QF flights.  Can book several of their partners online with AA planning to add more as they go along.  One way awards at half round trip rates.  Save AA miles for long hauls if possible, use BA for short haul.  No fuel surcharges except BA and IB awards.  E-Rewards participant.

Americans get miles from Citibank co-branded cards and the grandfathered Barclays Aviator cards (not available to new applicants).  You can also transfer points from SPG best done in blocks of 20k to get 5k bonus.

Australians get miles by transferring preferably blocks of 40k Amex MR points to get 20k SPG, then blocks of 20k SPG to get 5k bonus.

2.  United Airlines Mileage PlusStar Alliance member

Good for awards to South-east Asia on UA, SQ & TG; Central & South America on Copa & Avianca and Africa on South African, Ethiopian and Egypt Air.  Also very good for intra-Latin America and intra-Africa.  E-Rewards participant.

Americans get miles easily via Chase’s Ultimate Rewards cards and co-branded United Explorer card.

Australians have a much harder time getting miles as the SPG route is a poor value at 20k SPG gets 10k United plus bonus of 2500.  Most Aussies will find Singapore a better Star Alliance partner.

3.  Singapore Airlines KrisFlyerStar Alliance member

Don’t keep miles in here if you can’t use them within 3 years because they expire whether you have activity or not.  Be careful of fuel surcharges on Asian routes.  Good for redemptions on NZ between Australia and Pacific islands & redemptions on Avianca & Copa for Central/South America trips as no fuel surcharges.

Americans get miles from Chase’s Ultimate Rewards cards, Citibank Thank You cards, American Express Membership Rewards & SPG.

Australians get miles from American Express Membership Rewards 1000:1000 and transferable rewards programs from Westpac and ANZ.

4.  British Airways Avios and Iberia AviosOne World members

Same Avios currency but you need to join both BA and IB’s versions to maximize it.  Pretty easy to earn Avios via E-Rewards and can also credit stays at Accor hotels to Iberia’s program and transfer easily between BA and IB.    Not a great program for long haul or itineraries needing connections but excellent for short haul within South America on partner LAN, the BA-Comair flights within Southern Africa or within Australia on partner Qantas.  Some nice 5th freedom flights in the Caribbean – Trinidad to St Lucia gets you between 2 islands with good birding.

Americans get miles from Chase’s Ultimate Rewards cards and co-branded British Airways card. You can also transfer points from SPG best done in blocks of 20k to get 5k bonus.

Australians get miles by transferring preferably blocks of 40k Amex MR points to get 20k SPG, then blocks of 20k SPG to get 5k bonus.  Aussies need to use a European or American address as they don’t accept memberships with Australian addresses.

5. Flying BlueSky Team member

Be careful as most redemptions here attract fuel surcharges.  Flying Blue can get you some places that are otherwise very difficult to get to such as Kenya Airways flights to Madagascar and Garuda domestic Indonesia flights (no surcharges).  Also use on short haul flights on Gol, Aerolinas Argentinas (no surcharges) and some other interesting partners.  Participates in E-Rewards.  Miles expire after 20 months of when they were earned unless you credit a Sky Team flight to Flying Blue.  Non-flying activities such as credit card spend and E-Rewards don’t renew your expiration date.

Americans get miles from Citibank Thank You cards & Amex Membership Rewards.  You can also transfer points from SPG best done in blocks of 20k to get 5k bonus.

Australians get miles by transferring preferably blocks of 40k Amex MR points to get 20k SPG, then blocks of 20k SPG to get 5k bonus.

6.  Virgin Velocity – Not in an alliance. 

Good for short-haul to New Zealand and Pacific islands, domestic Australia flights and sometimes long haul to USA and Asia.  Participates in E-Rewards.

Americans get miles from transfering SPG points best done in blocks of 20k to get 5k bonus.  You need an Aussie address to join.

Australians have numerous credit cards (basically every bank in Australia) that earn Velocity points directly or transfer there.  Keep an eye out for huge sign on bonuses which have greatly improved in the last year or so.  There is a new partnership with BP to get 2 points per litre with occasional targeted bonuses.

7. Etihad Guest – Not in an alliance

I never looked twice at this program until they partnered up with Flybuys.  I did a recent review with Aussies in mind (sorry Americans) and found some interesting options with partners and decent value to Africa.  Probably not a good program for Americans to join, better to use AA redemptions on Etihad awards.  Beware of miles expiring after 2 years, don’t transfer them until you are within booking range.  Activity does not renew the expiration.

Americans get miles from Citibank Thank You cards.  You can also transfer points from SPG best done in blocks of 20k to get 5k bonus.

Australians get miles from American Express Membership Rewards 1000:1000 and the new Flybuys partnership FB 10,000: EY 4000.

8.  Qantas Frequent FlyerOne World member

Use for domestic Australia or short-haul to NZ, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.  Has fuel surcharges on most routes with the possible exception of LAN intra-South America.

Americans get points from Citibank Thank You cards.

Australians get points from co-branded Qantas cards, just about every bank in Australia has them.  Unfortunately the Woolies and Optus partnerships are gone so much harder to get points now outside of credit cards.

Dream TravelObviously not everyone needs to use ALL these programs.  It depends on where you want to go.  Situations change so you need to be constantly evaluating.  A month ago I wouldn’t have considered Etihad Guest but now I can see getting at least 16,000 free miles each year just by grocery shopping at Coles and using bonuses.  From the previous list US Airways Dividend Miles is gone and the Avianca Lifemiles program is no longer as valuable as it once was due to devaluations.  It is no longer so easy to get Qantas miles as they eliminated their best “every day spending” partners.  American may lose it’s #1 position if they devalue their awards.  I say as long as it’s free to join a program, then do so as you never know what deals may come in the future!

 

Flying Blue Bargain Redemptions To Madagascar

Are you reading this blog wishing you could go to Madagascar?

Are you based in Europe?

If not, can you easily get to Europe?

Then you are in luck!  Flying Blue has announced their promo redemptions for the next few months and Antananarivo is on the list!  You must book your trip before 31 March and travel between 1 May – 30 June 2015.  Most people transfer either SPG points or Amex MR to get Flying Blue miles if they need them.

FB TNRMake sure you are happy with the weather, it will be winter in Madagascar during May & June.  They will be coming out of the rainy season and some roads will be in bad condition, however the 2 places I am blogging about – Andasibe & Ankarafantsika are reachable by good paved roads.

Getting To Madagascar With Airline Miles

Madagascar is one of the most difficult places to get to using frequent flyer miles.  The gateway airport, Antananarivo Ivato Airport is only served by a handful of airlines.  You will most likely have to route through Paris or Nairobi if you want to use miles.  Otherwise, Madagascar will be one destination you have to actually purchase a revenue ticket.  All routes will have YQ fuel surcharges applied.  At least the destination is well worth it!

Ivato AirportSTAR ALLIANCE

This airport is not served by any Star Alliance airlines.  Some people may be confused because it can look like South African Airways flies there but this is not the case.  They code-share with Airlink on this route and Airlink is not a member of Star Alliance.

ONEWORLD

This airport is not served by any OneWorld airlines.

SKYTEAM

This airport is served by 2 Skyteam members:  Air France and Kenya Airways.  It is also possible to use Flying Blue miles on Air Mauritius segments by calling in.  Given Delta’s unreliability on their program, I used Flying Blue miles sourced from my USA based Amex PRG card to get us tickets on Kenya Airways TNR-NBO-ACC for our outbound flight.

Flying Blue generally charges 17,500 miles for inter-Africa flights (Madagascar is grouped with Africa) and they always add YQ so it depends on the route if it is worth it or not.  On our route to Ghana, it was well worth it as the base fare would have been over $750 per person!

FB TNR-ACC Kayak TNR-ACC Kayak TNR-ACC2On the Mauritius – Antananarivo route, you are better off to just purchase a ticket as you get very poor value for your miles.  The same 17,500 miles only saves you $179!

Kayak MRU-TNREXAMPLES OF OTHER FLYING BLUE REDEMPTIONS

LONDON – Beware the high APD on top of the YQ!

FB LHR-TNR

PARIS – Less APD but still high YQ

MRU FB1

Routes from the USA (JFK & LAX shown below) can be good, especially if you are using Amex MR points from a credit card!

FB JFK-TNR MRU FB2

AUSTRALIA – Aussies are out of luck with high mileage requirements, no credit cards that credit to Flying Blue and very high taxes.  If you are coming all the way from Australia, best to make Madagascar part of a larger African adventure such as I did.  I used United miles to get to Africa, then just the inter-African award as above.

The example below from Sydney routes via Jakarta and Paris!

FB SYD-TNR

 

Getting To Mauritius With Frequent Flyer Miles

Although most frequent flyer programs group Mauritius with Africa to determine it’s zone, there are far fewer options because not many airlines fly there.

IMG_4463 IMG_4464

STAR ALLIANCE

South African Airways is the only Star Alliance member to serve Mauritius so you will have to get to JNB, then connect to Mauritius.  Availability on this route isn’t the best and sometimes only available in business class so if you can only afford an economy ticket this won’t work for you.

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Assuming you can find availability, one way (double for RT) awards would cost:

NORTH AMERICA – MAURITIUS 40,000 Y    80,000 J

EUROPE – MAURITIUS                30,000 Y    55,000 J

AUSTRALIA – MAURITIUS            50,000 Y     75,000 J

Given the distances involved, it is much better to combine Mauritius with South Africa and have a better chance of finding those elusive seats!

ONEWORLD

The only OneWorld carrier serving Mauritius is British Airways so the best programs to look at are American AAdvantage for long-haul segments and British Airways Avios for short hops from JNB-MRU.

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Beware of transiting LHR enroute to Mauritius as the airport taxes can be extremely high.  Try to route on QR via DOH or EY via AUH to JNB, then pick up the JNB-MRU on BA.  Assuming you can find availability, one way (double for RT) awards would cost:

NORTH AMERICA – MAURITIUS 37,500 Y    62,500 J

EUROPE – MAURITIUS                30,000 Y    37,500 J

AUSTRALIA – MAURITIUS            37,500 Y     50,000 J

American currently offers the best deals on mileage awards to Africa but these rates are unlikely to hold once the merger with US Airways is completed so if Mauritius/Africa is on your bucket list, this is a good time to book your trip!

SKYTEAM

Air France is the only SkyTeam member serving Mauritius but you can use Delta (if anyone is still a member of Delta) to book these awards.  If you are using credit card points or transferring from SPG, then Flying Blue is your best bet.  All SkyTeam members charge YQ fuel surcharge on these tickets so you are better off using United or American for long haul awards.  Here’s a couple examples for a North American award and a European award.  Flying Blue won’t let you route from Australia via Europe to Mauritius.

MRU FB1 MRU FB2AIR MAURITIUS

Air Mauritius dominates the market. Here is a list of their destinations from MRU.

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They are a partner of Air France Flying Blue but they are not a member of SkyTeam.  If you want to use Flying Blue miles to book Air Mauritius you will have to call in.  I tried on the MRU-TNR (Antananarivo) route but the fuel surcharges were so high it would have been a total waste of SPG points which can be better utilized elsewhere.  If you are booking a cash ticket, then Air Mauritius does have a lot of options, keep an eye on their website for specials.

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Just Returned From Africa – Exhausted But Exhilirated

This trip has been in the works for over a year and was originally planned for late 2015 and referred to as “The Mother of all African Adventures“.   I decided to bring it forward to Nov 2014 because it relied heavily on United Mileage Plus and I had concerns that a devaluation could either make the trip impossible or knock us back to economy and since these flights were really long I wanted business class.  I was also afraid that a change to United’s generous routing rules (better explained by Drew at Travel is Free) would kill my planned stopovers.  This routing required both an open jaw and a stop-over and cost 320,000 miles in J class for both tickets.

United redemption on BR, CA, SA, ET & TG

I used British Airways Avios for some local routes on their South African partner, Comair.

Avios redemptions

The only paid ticket was Air Austral from MRU to TNR.  The only way to get this route with miles is Flying Blue on Air Mauritius but the taxes make it poor value since it is not easy to get Flying Blue miles.  Also, they didn’t fly on a Monday and I had no flexibility as I had specific places to go birding in Madagascar.  I could have flown Air Madagascar but they have had so many problems with flight cancellations and long delays, I chose not to take the risk and went with Air Austral via Reunion.