web Musings of The Global Traveller

Saturday, February 28, 2009

How to get to | Iceland

This is part of a series of blog entries on how to get to countries and places. Here is a link to the index. I plan to eventually cover every country and some other places. If you have a request for a particular country or place please use the contact me link at top right, or leave a comment.


source: Roger McLassus

Almost everyone arrives at Iceland by air at Keflavik airport, outside Reykjavik. A number of services are seasonal, and from year to year there is some variation in the airlines serving Iceland depending on tourist numbers. Thus the following information is only a rough guide. Except where noted, flights are to and from Keflavik:
  • Star Alliance - Lufthansa (summer only), SAS
  • Oneworld - none at time of writing
  • Sky Team - none at time of writing
  • Other - Icelandair flies to several places in Europe and USA (from Keflavik) plus Greenland and Faroe Islands (from Reykjavik city airport), several low cost European airlines

TIP Icelandair has reasonable fares (especially in low season) between USA and Europe which allow for a stopover. This is the simplest, and cheapest way to get to Iceland other than flying low cost airlines.

TIP Iceland is difficult to work into around the world fares, and award availability is patchy. Look for when new or seasonal routes are opened and book quickly as an award.

TIP If your flight is dropped (eg as with British Airways) between date ticketed and date of travel, you will likely be rebooked onto Icelandair due to the lack of alternatives.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Coming soon - key tips for frequent flyers

I've had some requests to explain some of the most important things I've learnt from FlyerTalk. These are tips, tricks, tools and information that I use almost daily to travel better, in more comfort, more often, and at lower cost. There is no big secret (all information is freely available if you know where to look), but it is hard to find summaries and explanations of why these are so useful.

It is far too much to cover in a single blog post, or even a couple of blog posts. So, I'm currently working on a series of posts. They'll cover such things as basic airline revenue management (and why it is good for flyers to know about it), tools to check availability, how to find good seats, etc.

If you have any specific topic that you'd like me to cover please drop me a line (using the email link top right or by comment).

How to get to | Finland

This is part of a series of blog entries on how to get to countries and places. Here is a link to the index. I plan to eventually cover every country and some other places. If you have a request for a particular country or place please use the contact me link at top right, or leave a comment.


source: Matti K Sinisalo

There are lots of Baltic Sea ferries plying between Sweden, Estonia, Russia and Finland. In the middle of winter the ferries operate depending on ice conditions. Roads and trains connect with St Petersburg. There are also road crossings further north to Norway, Sweden and Russia. However, the main way to get to Finland is by air via Helsinki Vantaa airport. Airlines flying to Finland include:
  • Star Alliance - Blue1 (based in Finland), Austrian, LOT, Lufthansa, SAS, TAP, Turkish
  • Oneworld - Finnair (unsuprisingly based in Finland), British Airways, Malev
  • Sky Team - Aeroflot (from Moscow but not St Petersburg), Czech, KLM

TIP Helsinki is a convenient place to start from (or connect at) for travel to most of the westernmost former USSR republics (ie Baltic countries plus Ukraine, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania) and also Russia at St Petersburg.

TIP awards between Europe and Asian hubs (Bangkok, Hong Kong and Tokyo) seem to be easier to get on Finnair than on the other Oneworld airlines.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Global Reach of Airline Alliances

Some readers have requested more information on getting everywhere. Eventually all countries will be covered by my "how to get to" series, but in the meantime here is some information on where the 3 main airline alliances fly.

The global airline alliances reach into many corners of the globe. The following maps illustrate, based on countries served as at February 2009. Home countries of airlines for each alliance are shown in light red, and other destination countries in dark red. Maps courtesy of World Map Maker.

From the maps you can see every alliance has areas of network weakness/limited coverage:

  • Star Alliance - Central America & Caribbean, South America, Africa
  • Oneworld - Africa, Asia, Pacific
  • Sky Team - Middle East, west Asia, Pacific

Plus some large countries with significant domestic flying are not well covered by some alliances:

  • Canada - all except Star Alliance
  • Brazil - all
  • Russia - all except Sky Team
  • India - all
  • China - Oneworld
  • Australia - all except Oneworld
Star Alliance


Sky Team

PS Oneworld does serve Venezuela but for some reason wouldn't come through on the Oneworld map.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How to get to | Namibia

This is part of a series of blog entries on how to get to countries and places. Here is a link to the index. I plan to eventually cover every country and some other places. If you have a request for a particular country or place please use the contact me link at top right, or leave a comment.


source: Olivier Peyre

Arrival by land is easiest from South Africa, but slow given the distances involved. By air there are fairly limited options, with the only longhaul flights on Air Namibia from London & Frankfurt, and Air Berlin from Munich (both to Windhoek). The other shorthaul flight options are:
  • Star Alliance - South African from Johannesburg to Windhoek and Walvis Bay
  • Oneworld - British Airways from Johannesburg to Windhoek
  • Sky Team - none
  • other - various regional airlines only
Note airline schedules on British Airways and South African may require an overnight at Johannesburg.

TIP if stopping in Johannesburg, fares from Johannesburg to Windhoek are relatively low so consider buying as a separate ticket. If visiting multiple southern Africa countries (in addition to South Africa) there are other more expensive routes to include as part of a longhaul ticket, whether paid or award.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Visit Every Country

Many readers know that one of my goals is to visit every country and travel everywhere. My reason why is, I guess, like most travellers - I want to see and experience all the world has to offer. Different people have different perspectives on life and information & attitudes to share. I love it.

Many other people have the same goal and indeed there are various clubs and websites with lists and where you can share tips and information to achieve the "travel everywhere" goal. These have varying degrees of usefulness, but for the most part I use the nifty maps to reinforce just how much more I have yet to see and experience. Here are just three examples:


Passport Stamp

(map includes some of my future destinations)

Trip Advisor

Unlike Chris Guillebeau I haven't set myself a time limit to achieve this goal (his goal is April 7, 2013), but every year I aim to visit at least 10 new places and usually manage to visit at least 20.

I use a lot of different tools to work out how to get to and from various places. Some are simple to get to and have easy low-cost travel options. Other places are more difficult and/or more expensive. A desire to share this information and encourage others to travel far and widely has lead me to start the "how to get to" series of posts. Since I am planning on ultimately getting everywhere I intend to post on every country in the series. The order is random - unless I get requests to cover particular places sooner (please drop a comment, or email using the link top left).

First Twitchhiker is about to set off

In just a few days the Twitchhiker will set off trying to travel as far as from Newcastle (in UK) as possible within a month using only the help of people on twitter, with nothing pre-planned. He's raising money for charity along the way. Good luck.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

How to get to | Mauritius

This is part of a series of blog entries on how to get to countries and places. Here is a link to the index. I plan to eventually cover every country and some other places. If you have a request for a particular country or place please use the contact me link at top right, or leave a comment.


While a few visit by ship, most arrive via Plaisance airport. Options are not too bad for an island a long way from most hub airports:

  • Star Alliance - South African from Johannesburg
  • Oneworld - British Airways from London and Johannesburg
  • Sky Team - Air France from Paris
  • other - Air Mauritius from various places on rim of Indian ocean plus Europe, Air Austral from Reunion, Air Madagascar from Antananrivo, Air Seychelles from Mahe, Emirates from Dubai

TIP Mauritius makes a convenient base to visit the other western Indian Ocean islands on local airlines.

TIP First class to Mauritius may not be around much longer, so book soon.

TIP Depending on exchange rates, some fares (both around the world and normal round trip) ex-Mauritius are (very) good value. To take advantage travel one-way on an award, or nest tickets.

TIP Due to a lack of connections, on Sky Team Mauritius is not a good destination on a round the world ticket, or on award ticket unless it is the sole destination.

How to get to | Brunei

This is part of a series of blog entries on how to get to countries and places. Here is a link to the index. I plan to eventually cover every country and some other places. If you have a request for a particular country or place please use the contact me link at top right, or leave a comment.

This small country is accessible by land from east Malaysia, or by air from neighbouring countries. The easiest way is on the national carrier Royal Brunei Airlines (from Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, UK and neighbouring countries). The cheapest way is on low cost carrier Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur. As far as alliance airlines there is only one, Singapore Airlines (watch for codeshares with Royal Brunei Airlines or substitutions for Silk Air if wanting to earn or redeem miles).

TIP for those with Sky Team frequent flyer programs it may be worth flying partner airline Malaysian Airlines - fares are less steep from Kuala Lumpur.

TIP if flying to Brunei from further afield than southeast Asia on Malaysian Airlines or Singapore Airlines it may cost little more than flights to their hubs.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Not sleeping in airport

Due to some odd travel requirements I had an awkward travel schedule, with late evening arrival and flying out again early next morning. Factoring in travel time to and from the airport and it was worthy of some consideration as to whether I should just try to sleep at the airport instead of heading home for the night.

A significant delay for my flight in sealed the deal. Going home I was bound to get no more than 3 hours sleep, and risk missing my flight, versus staying at the airport where I might get up to 4 hours sleep and low chance of missing flight (due to noise from all the travellers on lots of early flights it would be unlikely I'd oversleep).

The domestic terminal was locked overnight as always, but there are places to sleep inside the international terminal landside portion. Unfortunately the late arrival meant the comfiest couches were already taken. Further there was a decent crowd of overnighters and so it was a bit noiser than normal.

Last time I'd spent the night here I'd discovered a corridor tucked away from all traffic except perhaps a cleaner, with some bench seats. So I encamped and settled in for the night. Unfortunately since then there was some kind of nightworker office opened in the corridor and all night there was a steady stream of people coming and going every 10 minutes.

Arrghh. No sleep for me. Around 4am I gave up and wandered around some to kill time before domestic terminal opened. As a result I now have another tucked away place I can try out next time, if there is a next time.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

When do new elite cards get sent out?

I requalified for Priority Club platinum last month and they've already mailed the 2010 card to me. Most of my frequent flyer programs mail out elite cards only near the end of the membership year rather than when I've requalified. Sometimes they send them out too close to the end of the year and it doesn't arrive until after the following year has started - which can pose problems where partner lounges require sighting of the card as proof of eligibility (thinking of British Airways at London for example).

The oddest one I've come across so far, though, is Hilton HHonors, which used to mail out cards with an expiry date years ahead - ie assuming that you will keep requalifying. Which reminds me, I should get a new card from them soon.

Identity theft (still) from airline/frequent flyer websites

The other day I had forgotten a password for a website and had to ask for it to be reset. It was simple to do, and it got me thinking. Friends know I'm easily distracted and so instead of the job at hand I decided to take a look at other websites where I have accounts and see how easy it is to get passwords and access.

As this is a travel-related blog, I'll restrict my comments to airline and frequent flyer websites. From a modest sample of sites I got scary results. I'm no computer or security expert, but it looked like I would be able to gain access using only my name and easily guessed/looked up information at a good proportion of sites. This surprised me. I think it was a couple of years ago there was an expose on identity theft starting only with a British Airways boarding pass. While undoubtedly many security holes have been plugged, I did not expect it to be as easy to get access to not just one but several accounts.

Security of airline websites is particularly important. Not only do they hold information on credit cards and passport details (which proved surprisingly difficult for me to remove - without airline IS help the only option was to put in false information), but there is your address and information on when you are not going to be home. In the case of frequent flyer accounts there is also a (possibly significant) asset available for the taking by a thief.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Imitation is flattery?

Whoever it is that is copying wholesale my humble blog to new sites each week please stop. This is the only true site (theglobaltravel.blogspot), the other copies are fake.

Monday, February 16, 2009

How to get to | Australia

This is part of a series of blog entries on how to get to countries and places. Here is a link to the index. I plan to eventually cover every country and some other places. If you have a request for a particular country or place please use the contact me link at top right, or leave a comment.

There are some cruises across the Pacific, but given the distance and time involved most visitors fly. Lots of airlines fly to Australia, including the following (mostly to Sydney except where noted):

  • Star Alliance - Air Canada (from Vancouver), Air China (to Sydney and Melbourne), Air New Zealand (to Cairns, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth), Continental (Guam to Cairns), Singapore Airlines (to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth), South African (to Perth only Sydney is a codeshare on Qantas), Thai (to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth), United (to Sydney and Melbourne)
  • Oneworld - British Airways (from London via Bangkok/Singapore), Cathay Pacific (to Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth), Japan Airlines (to Cairns, Brisbane, Sydney), Qantas (note subsidiary Jetstar is not Oneworld)
  • Sky Team - China Southern (to Sydney and Melbourne), Korean (from Seoul) and Delta (from Los Angeles)
  • selected non-alliance airlines - Emirates (to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth), Virgin Atlantic (from London via Hong Kong), Malaysian (to Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth)
To summarise there are few direct options from North America (Qantas, United, Air Canada, Hawaiian) or from South America (Aerolineas Argentinas, LAN and Qantas) or Africa (Qantas and South African have one route each). Plenty of options from Asia with most major (and several not so big) airlines flying to Australia. With the rise of alliances, few European airlines fly to Australia any more - just British Airways and Virgin Atlantic - however there are lots of options on the kangaroo route.

As many routes have just 2 or 3 airlines competing, and with some barriers to expanding capacity, it is generally expensive to fly to Australia and very expensive in business or first class. Flights from Asia (or indeed from New Zealand) are much less expensive with much more competition.

In 2009 there are 2 new entrants on the US to Australia route, V Australia (subsidiary of Virgin Blue) and Delta.

TIP book awards as early as possible, especially to/from North or South America. These seats often go within a few days of being released.

TIP if paying for economy class and your travel dates are flexible, keep an eye out for sale fare wars which break out a couple of times a year.

TIP indirect routings and flights on less well known airlines are sometimes much cheaper, eg from USA to Australia via Japan on American and Qantas or Japan Airlines, from London to Australia on Air NZ or on Royal Brunei or on Malaysian.

TIP check awards and fares to New Zealand. It is cheap and easy to get from New Zealand to Australia on a separate ticket. Or in the other direction, instead of a longhaul ticket from Australia consider a ticket to NZ and another to the longhaul destination to take advantage of lower fares (depending on airline a stopover in Australia may also be allowed for further value).

TIP similarly check awards and fares to southeast Asia. There are a number of low cost airlines (eg Air Asia X, Tiger, jetstar) flying between southeast Asia and Australia, and even the major carriers have relatively low fares as a result of the competition.

TIP Australia is of mixed value on around the world tickets due to distances involved and need for back-tracking. No one alliance has the whole region well covered.

UPDATED November 2009 - Continental switch from Sky Team to Star Alliance. No change to advice.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

30 days of travel by donation

Paul Smith is hoping to raise money for charity by travelling for a month. The difference is he has no pre-planned itinerary and will instead go wherever he gets a free ride from tweeps (people on twitter). The electronic thumb of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy comes to life at twitter/twitchhiker.

Even if you can't help his travel you can still help the cause on the twitchhiker website, or follow along on twitter #twitchhiker.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

How to get to | Cuba

This is part of a series of blog entries on how to get to countries and places. Here is a link to the index. I plan to eventually cover every country and some other places. If you have a request for a particular country or place please use the contact me link at top right, or leave a comment.


source: Schneider Svan

Due to US law the only flights to Cuba on US-based airlines are charters for humanitarian grounds (American Airlines and Continental, both from Miami). Most Caribbean and Central American airlines fly to Havana, and some airlines from further afield:

  • Star Alliance - Air Canada from Toronto (also flies to several other airports in Cuba)
  • Oneworld - Iberia (from Madrid), LAN (from Santiago), Mexicana (from Mexico City)
  • Sky Team - Aeroflot (from Moscow), Air France (from Paris)
  • selected non-alliance airlines - Virgin Atlantic (from London Gatwick)

Until the US embargo is lifted, Cuba is suprisingly awkward to visit. US citizens are not allowed to spend money in Cuba and US companies are not allowed to profit from Cuba or Cuba travel. Thus for Americans the traditional way to visit is to go via Canada, Mexico or Jamaica - with a separate ticket to/from Cuba, and take extra cash for the visit (since credit card use is proof of having broken the law). Flying Cubana is out for Americans. Cuban immigration helps visitors with the charade by not stamping passports.

For non Americans it is much simpler, although US law impedes. Not only can you not fly directly to or from USA, but it is also not allowed to have flights on US-based airlines on the same ticket.

So for example a One World Explorer round the world ticket that includes Cuba limits access to some North America destinations served only by American Airlines - the addition of Mexicana to Oneworld at least means major cities can be visited. For Star Alliance it is not quite as bad - you can fly around Canada and to/from USA on Air Canada as well as visit Cuba, however with no connection between Cuba and Europe there is a lot of back-tracking required (their round the world is mileage based).

TIP unless doing a simple round trip from Europe, book flights to either Mexico City or Jamaica and visit Cuba on a side-ticket (which will most likely need to be paid as the local airlines generally do not allow award tickets using miles on the major frequent flyer programs)

TIP it will be much easier to visit Cuba in future once US law is changed, but will Cuba be the same then?

UPDATED November 2009 - addition of Mexicana in Oneworld gives more flexibility.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Cultural festivals in unexpected places

Source: Asia:NZ Foundation

A week ago I was chatting with a friend and mentioned I was off to the lantern festival shortly. He thought I was somewhere in Asia. I was surprised as I'd taken it for granted that the lantern festival marking the end of lunar new year celebrations would be held wherever there are lots of Chinese (ie all around the world). It turns out Auckland is one of the few cities outside Asia to have a new year lantern festival. Who knew?
This has me wondering ... what other cultural festivals crop up in unexpected places?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How to get to | Iraq

This is part of a series of blog entries on how to get to countries and places. Here is a link to the index. I plan to eventually cover every country and some other places. If you have a request for a particular country or place please use the contact me link at top right, or leave a comment.


Not the easiest or safest country to visit at the moment. Nonetheless there are ways to go to Iraq that do not involve armed forces, peacekeepers, UN or consultants. Last year there were reports of tours of the northern Kurdistan part of the country (as well as across the border in Turkey), however, I am not sure if these are running yet.

It is possible to fly to Iraq on the following:

  • Oneworld - Royal Jordanian Airlines from Amman to Baghdad
  • Star Alliance - Turkish Airlines from Istanbul to Baghdad and Austrian Airlines from Vienna to Erbil
  • Sky Team - none
  • other - MEA from Beirut to Baghdad from June 2009?

I flew to Erbil last year (see a most unusual flight experience), and here is another report of Kurdistan from Chris Guillebeau. For some comments on visas/entry requirements, check out this post.

Obviously the safety, visa requirements and travel options can vary rapidly and so all travellers to Iraq are highly recommended to keep themselves informed. Currently my own view is Erbil is lower risk than Baghdad.

TIP Fares are extremely high and so this is a great route to book on an award, or as part of a round the world ticket. As long as you can book several months in advance there should be availability for both options.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Oneworld round the world booking tool

Late last year Oneworld launched an online oneworld explorer planning and booking tool. Star Alliance have had an online round the world planning tool for a couple of years, and more recently planning tools for other Star Alliance fare products. The Star Alliance tool does not allow for direct booking online - instead you have to submit the prepared itinerary to an airline or travel agent for them to book it for you. The oneworld tool thus in theory offers some advantages - availability is checked on the fly and no messing around contacting an airline or travel agent to make the payment and get it ticketed.

However, in practice the Oneworld tool seems to be buggy. Two relevant discussion threads on Flyer Talk illustrate some of the many issues - main xONEx online tool discussion thread (NB xONEx is shorthand for this particular round the world fare to differentiate it from the other Oneworld round the world global explorer fare, xGLOBxx), and xONEx online tool bugs.

I think the tool has a lot of potential in making the fare more accessible to consumers. However, Oneworld needs to make the tool more robust. Many people will be discouraged by the various errors (and some of these prevent booking valid itineraries because it is the tool that is in error).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hotel airport transfers

In many countries where local transport may be difficult, or with a reputation for bad cabbies, hotels often provide airport transfers at a charge. The fee varies widely and in many cases is more than a normal (non-rip-off) cab fare, sometimes much more. This makes sense as you are paying for the driver to also head to the airport and wait for you. Depending on the circumstances these can be very good value, or not so good.

Factors I take into account include:

  • cost difference
  • convenience
  • safety
  • potential for being ripped off by regular cabs
  • alternative public transport - mode, cost and convenience (a cheap alternative that requires multiple changes and still need a cab at the end is generally unappealing)
  • time of day of arrival or departure (more likely to use other transport in the middle of the day than in the middle of the night)
  • ability to earn hotel stay program points on the transfer (some allow it and some don't)
  • convenience of charging to room instead of paying in cash (eg if I wouldn't otherwise need to change some money I may pay a bit over the odds for transfer for the convenience)
  • time I have available
  • at some places paying for their expensive airport transfers has resulted in a "free" room upgrade or extra amenities (eg late check out)

After booking a room for part of an upcoming trip I received an email from the hotel asking if I wanted to book an airport transfer. The cost of the transfer is more than the cost of the room, and about 50 times the cost of using the public bus which conveniently stops near the hotel. I think I'll pass this time.

How to get to | Bali

This is part of a series of blog entries on how to get to countries and places. Here is a link to the index. I plan to eventually cover every country and some other places. If you have a request for a particular country or place please use the contact me link at top right, or leave a comment.

source wikipedia

While you can get to Bali by boat, most visitors arrive by air. Most Asian airlines fly to Denpasar, but there are very few non-Asian airlines (Jetstar and Pacific Blue from Australia, transaero from Moscow, Qatar from Doha). The choices of airlines include:
  • Star Alliance - Shanghai, Singapore, Thai
  • Oneworld - Cathay Pacific, Japan (note Qantas do not fly to Bali and their subsidiaries Jetstar and Jetstar Asia are not part of Oneworld)
  • Sky Team - Korean
Few if any airlines have first class to Bali, and business class is relatively expensive and difficult to obtain on awards. Some paid fare rules and frequent flyer program award rules make it hard/impossible to get to Bali due to backtracking and maximum permitted mileage rules - depending on where you are coming from there can be a large detour via one of the Asian hubs to get to Denpasar.
TIP book well ahead for business class award travel.
TIP lots of low cost airlines fly to Bali from all the main cities in southeastern Asia and also some Australian cities.
NOTE the EU has a warning on travel on Indonesian airlines due to safety concerns and currently bans these airlines from flying to EU.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

How to get to | Uruguay

source stonek . com

A number of airlines used to fly a tag leg from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, but I think these have all been dropped now. Which leaves the only flights to Uruguay on a handful of South American airlines, plus American Airlines (from Miami) and Iberian (from Madrid).

Across the Rio de la Plata, Ezeiza airport at Buenos Aires is served by many airlines from North & South America, Europe, Africa, Asia (Malaysian Airlines flies via South Africa) and Australia. It is fairly quick and simple to take a bus or cab to the port and then the fast ferry across to Colonia. Alternatively you can take a much slower bus ride from Buenos Aires to Uruguay.

TIP Intra-South America air travel sold in South America is cheaper than the same flights sold on US or international websites or travel agencies.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


You can now find out the latest news from me (and a sneak peek of some blog entries) on Twitter at globtrav.

Friday, February 06, 2009

STA World Travel Internship

I've had a few reader emails about the 2009 STA World Travel Internship competition. A lot of 18-26 year olds have posted video entries and are asking for views and comments in order to help them win the prize (travel all over the place).

From STA

Our World Traveler Interns (interns with an "S") will traverse the globe
experiencing a number of travel adventures and showcasing their experiences
daily via a journal/blog, video and podcasts. They will be responsible for
describing everything they do and experience with the ultimate goal of
inspiring other students and young people to become World Travelers!

Sounds like fun. A shame I'm no longer eligible. Here is a link to the first email I received, at internswithans, and you can see the rest of the entries at Youtube. Good luck.

My travel plans for 2009

My travel for the first half of 2009 was largely mapped out last year, albeit with the usual last minute extra trips and cancellations. In the last few weeks I have been mulling over my travel for the second half of 2009 and thinking about how I can use the opportunities that 2009 may bring to a savvy traveller.

The conclusion I've come to is to have less bookings in advance and retain flexibility to snap up suitable good deals as they become available. I've also taken the opportunity to confirm some upgrades to first class using vouchers as I do not expect op-ups from business class.

Figuring out what is a good deal to take versus which ones I should not take is more difficult. I think the sales that have already happened or underway now, are just the beginning. In general, and especially in premium cabins, prices may drop on routes I wish to fly the more I wait. However it isn't as simple as that. Some currencies have moved massively in the past six months and further jumps/falls are expected. Even if prices may drop later it still may be worthwhile taking the current offer to lock in the exchange rates. In other cases some fares appear to be well out of line with fares on the main competition - if I wait then I may miss out on a bargain.

I probably will take advantage of the oneworld 10th anniversary sale, which is 10% off all oneworld products (round the world, continent passes, circle pacific/atlantic, etc), perhaps with a few tickets. [BTW it is nice that the oneworld promo is more accessible to their customers - much better than a competition in which very few people can win, ahem star alliance.]

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Update on missing mileage

Last month I blogged I was missing 70,000 odd points and miles from various flights and hotel stays. After some chasing up I am now down to 6 flights which I am missing miles for, or have been credited incorrectly.

With the sheer volume of travel I do, having a system to keep track of it all is the only way I can prevent missing out on a lot of points and miles. It is annoying that every year I have at least 25 flights or hotel stays fail to credit or credit incorrectly. That sounds like a lot, but over 90% credit fine. At the moment I keep track in a spreadsheet and mark off when the points are credited. A simple filter shows me which ones I still have to wait on or follow up.

How do readers keep track of their earning? Particularly if you have multiple frequent flyer programs and frequent stay programs?

How to get to | Kosovo


There are buses from all nearby countries (including Serbia) to the capital Pristina, although only Istanbul has direct long-distance service. For those not travelling around the Balkans, the easiest way to reach Kosovo is to fly using one of the following airlines:

  • Star Alliance - Adria, Austrian, Croatia, SAS (seasonal), Turkish
  • Oneworld - British Airways, Malev
  • Skyteam - none (yet) I think
The number of airlines flying to Pristina has grown rapidly in the past year, and I'd expect further growth so check with your airline or alliance of choice even if it is not listed above. Also some airlines currently flying may reduce or cease service if demand doesn't meet their expectations.

Low cost airlines haven't yet established flights to Kosovo and so fares are higher than other nearby places. However it is still easy to get discounted fares and awards.

TIP land travel in the region has never been easier. Save your money or miles for somewhere harder or more expensive to get to.

Update on Singapore Airlines premium awards

Last month I, and many others, blogged about Singapore Airlines releasing awards in first and business class on 77W and A380.

Upon investigation the release was in error and stopped within a couple of days. However, I stand by my comments that I expect there will be a relaxation of the current blackout of premium (new product) first and business class awards on Singapore Airlines ... hopefully this year.

There are 2 good reasons. (1) with the retirement of their 747s Singapore Airlines is rapidly running out of longhaul routes on which you can get premium awards (777-200ER flies secondary longhaul routes but has no first class). (2) Singapore Airlines is not immune to the plunging loads in premium cabins being experienced nearly everywhere (IATA data shows a worldwide 12% fall in premium cabin revenue in November 2008 alone). It is one thing to not offer awards to protect revenue but if they are not selling any seats (some A380 flights have had zero sold F seats) then they may as well get some income through awards.

Monday, February 02, 2009

How to get to | Nepal

Continuing the series with an Asian country.


source: Wikipedia

Nepal is accessible by land from India, or Tibet over the Friendship Pass, or by air. As far as I know only Asia-based airlines and perhaps the odd seasonal charter flight from Europe fly into Kathmandu. There are lots of flights from India, and not so many from each of the major Asian capitals (none from Tokyo for example). In terms of the main airline alliances:

  • Star Alliance has Thai (from Bangkok) and Air China (from Chengdu via Lhasa). The Singapore Airlines flights are actually operated by Silk Air and thus not available for awards or on certain fares.

  • Oneworld has Dragonair (from Hong Kong)

  • Skyteam has Korean (from Seoul) and China Southern (from Guangzhou)

Fares can be fairly high relative to other Asian destinations. Awards may be tricky due to limited options.

TIP look for travel off peak.

TIP discounted business class can be available for little more than economy.