Pic: Copyright Hotel Indigo Dusseldorf – Victoriaplatz
Need some more nights to complete your IHG Rewards Club – The Big Win challenge? Join us on December 20-22 at the brand new Hotel Indigo Dusseldorf – Victoriaplatz (Germany) for a cosy weekend at the Christmas Market! The IHG 2-for-1 rate (make sure to select ‘Partner Rate 2X1′ as Rate Preference) at Hotel Indigo Dusseldorf is currently at its low: €119 for two nights! See you in Dusseldorf? PS. Leave a comment if you’re interested in carpooling from Brussels. Thanks!
With our TravelMagic meet-up at Crowne Plaza Antwerp last weekend, my dad completed his IHG Rewards Club Big Win challenge for 2013. On top of the 50,100 points earned with The Big Win, he also managed to score an additional 40,500 bonus points by signing up for all the IHG Rewards Club promo codes. Including base points, he earned a total of 94,946 points. That’s almost enough for 2 free nights at any of the most expensive IHG properties worldwide (100K) or 19 (!!) free nights at PointBreaks hotels (95K). To earn the 94,946 points, he spent a total of €233 on four nights (3 stays).
Holiday Inn Brussels Airport €85
Holiday Inn Express Mechelen 2-for-1 rate €76
Crowne Plaza Antwerp Breakfast rate €72
My dad already burned 35,000 of his earned points on 3 free nights at Holiday Inn Resort Phuket Mai Khao Beach Resort (IHG Rewards Club Oct 2013 Flash Sale, 5K per night) and a one-night stay at Crowne Plaza ANA Narita (20K points). That leaves 59,946 points in his account to enjoy. How many points did you manage to earn? How do you plan to spend them? Thanks for sharing!
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Check-In at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (Nov 2013)
The Thai Airways A380 serves five destinations from Bangkok: Hong Kong, Tokyo, Osaka, Frankfurt and Paris. I flew the Thai A380 in Royal First from Bangkok to Frankfurt in Jan 2013. Early November, I needed a last-minute positioning flight from Bangkok to Tokyo. As oneway economy class tickets were +€300, I turned to miles. United Airlines MileagePlus had just announced their massive award chart devaluation for bookings after January 31, 2014 making this BKK-NRT trip a great opportunity to burn my remaining UA miles. While there were no business class seats available on direct flights from Bangkok to Narita, the MileagePlus site was showing Thai Airways A380 First Class award availability for 40,000 miles. Since I had only 22,259 miles left in my MileagePlus account, I had to figure out a way to buy the remaining miles at an acceptable price. The ~22K miles in my United account were earned by
Fortunately, United MileagePlus allows you to buy so called ‘Award Accelerator Miles’ which come with existing bookings. Each booking in your UA MileagePlus account shows a custom offer to buy extra award miles. Although the offer is linked to future flights, the Award Accelerator miles post instantly after you made the payment. In my case I was offered 17,096 miles for $394 (=$0.023 per mile), not the best offer around (Award Accelerator miles are sold as low as $0.021 per mile), but I needed the miles urgently. As usual in the airline industry, some additional taxes & fees were added to my award booking: $75 late booking fee, $22.50 Additional Taxes & Fees and $37.63 for the remaining 645 miles. Total cost of my Thai Royal First flight: 22,259 miles and $529.13 (€399 on Amex). The revenue fare for TG676 A380 BKK-NRT was €1179. In the end, this wasn’t an amazing deal, but at least I didn’t have to fly economy class.
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Class Cart at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (Nov 2013)
To make sure I could enjoy the famous Thai Royal First ground services to its fullest extent, I went early to the airport. With my flight being scheduled at 8 am, that meant arriving really early in the morning, 5.30 am to be specific. Fortunately, I was staying at the Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport hotel which is connected to the airport via an underground passage. After dropping off my luggage at the dedicated Thai Royal First check-in lounge, a Thai staff member guided me through security and immigration. In Thai’s opinion, you’re not supposed to walk to the lounge as First Class passenger, so I was driven through the business class lounge on
a throne an airport buggy.
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Class Cart Ride to Royal First Lounge (Nov 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (Nov 2013)
The Thai Royal First Lounge opens at 5 am and closes at 1 am.
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Lounge at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (Nov 2013)
Upon arrival at the Royal First lounge, I ordered my Royal Orchid Spa treatment. Passengers flying Thai Airways Royal First are entitled to a complimentary 60 minute full body massage treatment whereas Royal Silk (Business Class) passengers can enjoy a 30 minute Neck & Shoulder or Foot massage treatment.
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge – Private Corner Seating (Nov 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge – Breakfast Menu (Nov 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge menu: Boiled Rice with Fish (Nov 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge: Boiled Rice with Fish (Nov 2013)
I ordered Boiled Rice with Fish and a Banana Smoothy for breakfast.
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Class Lounge: Beverages & Champagne menu (Nov 2013)
The Royal First Lounge serves G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut Champagne.
Pic: Thai Airways Royal Orchid Spa at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (Nov 2013)
At 6 am, it was time for my hour long Spa treatment. I went for the Touch of Silk Full Body Oil Massage, which was excellent. I only wished the treatment rooms would be more soundproof, as you can still hear the noise and announcements from the airport terminal. The Royal Orchid Spa opens at 06:00 am and closes at 11:30 pm.
Pic: Thai Airways Royal Orchid Spa Bangkok – Massage Treatment Room (Nov 2013)
After the Spa treatment and some more drinks at the Royal First lounge, my Thai lounge host informed me the flight to Tokyo was ready for boarding.
Pic: Thai Airways A380-800 Royal First Class – Seat 3K (Nov 2013)
The Thai A380 aircraft features 12 seats in First Class, 60 seats in Business Class and 435 seats in Economy Class. I had selected seat 3K which gave me a good overview of the cabin during the 6 hour flight.
Pic: Thai Airways A380-800 Royal First Class – Seat 3K (Nov 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways A380-800 Royal First Class – Seat 3K (Nov 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Class A380 Seat Controls (Nov 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Class Rimowa Amenity Kit (Nov 2013)
Thai Royal First passengers received one of my favorite amenity kits, the Rimowa series. My collection is growing!
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Class A380 Seats 3E and 3F (Nov 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways A380 Royal First Class Cabin (Nov 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Class Dom Perignon Champagne (Nov 2013)
The Dom Perignon Champagne was present, but unfortunately there was no caviar service on the Bangkok – Tokyo Narita route. I had pre-ordered my main course, Lobster Thermidor, from the extensive cuisine menu. The onboard Menu, Champagne, Wine and Beverages list.
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Breakfast – Fresh Fruits (Nov 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Class Branded Butter (Nov 2013)
Pic: Thai Airways Royal First Class Lobster Thermidor (Nov 2013)
The picture above doesn’t do justice to extremely delicious lobster, however the vegetables and duchess potato could have looked better.
Pic: Thai Airways TG676 Bangkok to Tokyo, approaching Narita (Nov 2013)
This was my second time flying the Thai Airways A380 in First Class. While I’m not a great fan of the beige color pallet in the Royal First cabin, the seat was very comfortable with a huge IFE screen. The First Class seats already started showing some wear and tear due to the light colors of the leather and fabrics used. Let’s hope Thai manages to keep its new First cabins bright and shiny in the years to come!
Pic: Qatar Airways B787 Dreamliner A7-BCC at Brussels Airport (Dec 2013)
Pic: Qatar Airways B787 Dreamliner Flight Attendants at Brussels Airport (Dec 2013)
Sunday Dec 1st, 2013 marked a new milestone for Brussels Airport and Qatar Airways. The Middle Eastern airline started operating the new B787-8 Dreamliner on its Brussels – Doha route, making them the first airline with scheduled Dreamliner flights at Brussels Airport. On Tuesday Dec 3th, I was invited by Qatar Airways to have a closer look at the B787 while parked at Brussels Airport Gate B10.
Pic: Qatar Airways B787 Dreamliner Business Class Cabin (Dec 2013)
Pic: Qatar Airways B787 Dreamliner Business Class Seat (Dec 2013)
Pic: Qatar Airways B787 Dreamliner Economy Class Cabin (Dec 2013)
More information on the Qatar Airways BRU-DOH schedule can be found at Flightlevel.be (in Dutch) Qatar Airways joined the Oneworld Alliance end of Oct 2013, which makes you can redeem your Oneworld miles for flights on the B787!
“Ryanair arrives at Brussels Airport, but don’t bet too much on a price war.”
Guest post by TravelMagic speaker Raphael Cockx.
Ryanair is on the move. Up until last week, that was just a figure of speech. When the Irish ‘ultra low cost carrier’ announced lower fees and a more customer friendly set of policies a few weeks ago, it took a step towards longtime rival Easyjet and its way of doing business. The Ryanair website got a new look and the company all of a sudden embraced social media in the form of a rather active and helpful Twitter account. Then came the real move and the big surprise. From Ciampino to Fiumicino in Rome and from Charleroi to Zaventem in Brussels. Surely, this changed… well, everything. Here was a carrier that over the last few years became almost synonymous with the airport misleadingly called ‘Brussels South’ only to move in with the ‘real’ Brussels. Ryanair might not be leaving their home turf but they do move into enemy territory. After all, CEO Michael O’Leary, has made it an almost predictable habit to take jabs at big, expensive airports like Brussels Zaventem. Not anymore: Mister O’Leary cheerily claimed Ryanair’s takeover of smaller airports to be complete and said it was time to do the same at the bigger airfields. With the exception of megahubs like Frankfurt or Heathrow Ryanair could go anywhere next.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be publishing a number of articles about the Lufthansa Miles and More program. I’ll focus on how to maximize the value of your miles by uncovering the best redemptions. Obviously, before you can start redeeming miles, you need to earn them. This post will explain how the Lufthansa Miles & More program works and how you can earn those miles.
There are two types of miles, award miles and status miles. Award miles can be earned both by flying and via partners. Award miles can be used for free* flights, upgrades, hotel stays, car rentals and much more. Status miles can only be earned by flying, the so called ‘butt-in-seat’ miles. Status miles cannot be spend, they just increase your status miles counter. After earning a certain number of status miles in one calendar year (Jan 1 – Dec 31), you’ll earn elite status which comes with a number of perks depending on your elite level. (*you’ll still need to pay taxes & fees)
When flying any of the airlines listed above, you can present your Miles & More card at the check-in counter to earn miles. In most cases, you’ll have already entered your Miles & More card number at the time of booking. Still, it’s a good practice to present your card each time at check-in to make sure it’s entered correctly in the system. For a full list of all airlines on which your can earn miles, check the Lufthansa Miles & More site. Note that not all partner airlines earn status miles, some airlines might only earn award miles or partial status miles (e.g. 25% on Turkish Airlines).
You’ll notice there’s an earning table for each airline referring to the booking class and how much miles it earns. It’s important to know which booking class your flights are booked in. Each flight (segment) has its own booking class and depending on that letter, you’ll earn a certain number of miles. Booking classes are displayed during the booking process on most sites, but that might not always be the case. If you can’t find the booking class, contact your OTA (Online Travel Agency).
You can also use the Lufthansa Meilenrechner tool to determine the number of status and award miles you will earn on Lufthansa Group flights: Adria Airways, Austrian Airlines Group, Brussels Airlines, Croatia Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Luxair and SWISS.
The table above gives an overview of the different elite status levels you can reach by collecting status miles at Lufthansa Miles & More. If you’re not flying Business or First class (or full fare Economy class on regular bases) I would NOT recommend to pursue status with Miles & More. There are far better programs to achieve elite status and Star Alliance Gold (e.g. Aegean Miles&Bonus). In fact, the number of award and status miles you can earn by flying economy class on Lufthansa Group airlines and its partners will be dramatically reduced as of January 1, 2014. Conclusion: if you’re not flying Lufthansa Group Business class, First class or full fare Economy class on regular bases, it might be more interesting to credit your flights to an alternative Star Alliance frequent flyer program. Until recently, I would have recommended United MileagePlus, but after their massive devaluation announcement on Oct 31, they are no longer a preferred alternative. If you want to obtain Star Alliance Gold status by flying economy class, I would recommend Aegean Miles&Bonus. I’ll have a separate post on this program soon.
For the lucky ones working in the Oil and Gas industry, there’s Lufthansa’s Oil & Energy Club which gives you instant Frequent Traveller status!
Star Alliance Gold is a status which comes with perks valid at all Star Alliance Airlines. Collecting 100,000 status miles in one calendar year with Miles & More will result in 2 years of Senator Elite status, which includes Star Alliance Gold.
So how do you earn lots of miles at Miles & More if you only fly economy class a few times a year? Via partners! You can earn miles with almost anything these days, hotel stays, car rentals, magazine and newspaper subscriptions, telecom partners, … and shopping!
Above are a number of shopping opportunities to earn miles, mainly geared towards Belgians, but Miles & More might have similar or even better offers for your country.
Your main source of miles could/should come from these… Miles & More Credit Cards. US citizens are the lucky ones here with sign-up bonuses of up to 50,000 miles! Unfortunately, Europeans are limited to way lower sign-up bonuses. The best you can get in Belgium is 6000 miles with the Brussels Airlines Premium American Express card. You can earn another 2000 miles by paying your cellphone bill using the card. And then there’s 1,5 miles per euro spent. I’ve written an article about the Brussels Airlines American Express cards in 2012 which includes an offer for double welcome miles (6000 instead of 3000) which is still valid. However, this ‘offer’ might disappear as the distributor of the Brussels Airlines credit cards is currently evaluating its offerings in Belgium. They already pulled the Brussels Airlines Premium MasterCard as of November 1st and there might be changes to the American Express cards too. I recommend to sign-up for the Brussels Airlines Premium American Express now, to ensure you can enjoy the 6000 miles welcome bonus. Note: 1) You can cancel the card at any given time and the remaining fee will (€10/month) will be refunded. 2) Do NOT use this card to pay in foreign currencies as it has a 2,5% conversion fee. Read more about these fees and a great alternative VISA card to pay in foreign currencies in our Credit Cards for Belgian travelers review.
Hat tip: Illustrations by Thijs Feryn
Full disclosure: By signing up for the Brussels Airlines American Express card using a personalized link, I might receive referral miles. Thank you for supporting my travel blog.