Virgin first class sale + Hilton HHonors downgrade + Chase Sapphire w chip + United dumps ExpertFlyer

Virgin's cushy first class seats look like big white marshmallows (Virgin America)

Virgin’s cushy first class seats look like big white marshmallows (Virgin America)

BIG SEATS, BIG SALE ON VIRGIN. To keep the those posh seats at front of the plane full during Thanksgiving week, Virgin America announced a flash sale today— those normally pricey first and main cabin select seats are on sale at 50% off, but only for bookings made by midnight tomorrow night (Nov 20) for trips between Friday, Nov 21 and Sunday, Nov 30. Get the deal by booking at and using the promo code: BESTSEATS. These are VERY good deals… esp first class to Vegas for $300 round trip!

Sample roundtrip fares from SFO:

Main Cabin Select / First Class:

New York JFK: $600 / $2028
Newark: $580 / $1548
Washington DC $488 / $1346
Los Angeles: $210 / $248
Seattle: $254 / $460
Las Vegas $232 / $300

HiltonHHonorsLogoHILTON HHONORS NIXES POINTS AND FIXED MILES OPTION…Hilton has been unique among major hotel brands for allowing hotel guests to “double dip” by earning both hotel points and a fixed number of airline miles for their stay (typically 500 miles). Effective Jan. 6, 2014, guests can continue to double dip with airlines, but miles will be earned at a rate of one mile per dollar spent—no more fixed rates. This significantly downgrades the mileage earning option, and most travelers would be wise to switch to the “points and points” option allowing bonus Hilton HHonors points instead of “points and miles.” This is, yet another, indication of travel companies adjusting their loyalty programs to award travelers based on revenue.

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Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 12.29.19 PMCHASE SAPPHIRE PREFERRED ADDS MICROCHIP TECHNOLOGY… The popular Chase Sapphire Preferred Card can now come with an embedded chip like those found in cards issued outside the US. Many retailers and travel suppliers overseas have difficulty accepting the traditional magnetic strip card used in the US so the addition of the chip should help with global acceptance. To get a card with a chip, just call the number on the back of your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card . Chase will send the new card (same # and expiration date) via UPS to you for free. Important: This is a chip and signature card, not a chip and PIN card, which means that a human being must still be present for you to sign for your purchase. Since it’s not a chip and PIN card, it will not work at unmanned European train station ticket kiosks—you’ll still have to go to the window and sign for tickets. When I called for mine, the Chase representative told me that if asked for a PIN at point of purchase, the user should just press “cancel” which will prompt the merchant to obtain a signature. Chase Sapphire Preferred also waives foreign transaction fees and provides points with Ultimate Rewards, which can be redeemed on airlines like United, British Airways, Korean Air, Marriott, and Hyatt among others. It’s also currently offering a nice sign up bonus of 40,000 points.  This is what puts this card at the top of nearly every list of top cards for frequent travelers. Apply for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card  here. (Disclosure: The BAT earns a small commission when you apply via links posted here.)

EXPERT FLYER LOSES STAR ALLIANCE AWARD DATA…, a popular tool used to research flight availability and search for award seat space, has lost the ability to access award space data to Star Alliance carriers. This seems quite suspicious considering United just slashed its award chart making it more expensive to book tickets effective Feb. 1, 2014—and no doubt more travelers are making award ticket reservations between now and that date. Could United have played a role in the removal of this data from ExpertFlyer to make it harder to find space? Not all Star Alliance airlines appear in award searches via Luckily, travelers with an All Nippon Airways frequent flyer account can still log in to see complete Star Alliance award availability and then phone United to make their reservations.

EMIRATES/VIRGIN AMERICA BECOME LOYALTY PARTNERS…Members of Emirates and Virgin America’s frequent flyer programs can earn and burn their miles on each other’s flights. Until now, the only other easy way to earn and redeem miles on Emirates (without flying Emirates directly) was by using Alaska Airlines miles, which provides a similar partnership. Virgin Elevate now partners with two of the worlds finest airlines.. Emirate and Singapore. Not bad! 

-Chris McGinnis 

And just in case you missed it, here’s what else you need to know about Bay Area Travel over the last month:

More A380s + Cathay discounts biz class + SJC courts Asia + Double Elevate pts

>Southwest FINALLY joins PreCheck

>United to allow handhelds below 10K feet

>Travel advice fit for a Queen (Latifah!)

>New landing procedure at SFO should help w delays! Hallelujah!

>Big, bad United MileagePlus surprise 

>Virgin’s new Safety Dance

>Riding the Red Carpet Route to London! 

>Double Miles on United & Southwest

>$100 hotels in NYC 

>Two posh new lounges coming to SFO 


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