I kept promising myself to get this blog started for months. However the turn of the year seemed like an appropriate time to kick it off.
2013 represents a new change for me in many ways. I'll be moving from the UK to the Netherlands for a new job. My new home airport will be AMS, and the previous homes airports of LHR and LGW will be merely strategic stops. Luckily with the Schengen Common Travel Area I'll have plenty more ‘domestic' airports at my disposal – the likes of CDG, FCO, FRA, TXL (soon to be BER), MAD, BCN, AGP etc. – for faster turnarounds, transfers and mileage runs, though the era of doing so is fast fading away.
(For your information, a mileage run taking a flight for the sole purpose of air miles or a similar trick with a loyalty programme – similarly a mattress run is staying at a hotel for the sole purpose of hotel points.)
I value AA EXP higher than BA Gold because of the 8 Systemwide upgrades they give, and their free USA domestic upgrades, not that I'll be using that option that frequently being based in Europe. In addition award tickets purchased using AA miles are free from fuel surcharge for most routes (YQ or YR – I use these interchangeably since airlines do the same, however there are subtle back-end differences which doesn't affect the consumer, so I won't bore you further), and are a lot more difficult to get than BA's Avios points. This is especially efficient for long-haul premium cabin travel.
That said, Avios has its sweet spot. Short haul redemptions. Costing from 4500 points plus taxes plus YQ if applicable, it is a fantastic use where YQ is very low, namely intra-America flights, Air Berlin redemptions and “Reward Flight Saver” redemptions on Iberia or British Airways. The cash component on these RFS zones are just ?15/€15 one way economy class depending on your registered address. On short haul intra-European flights, this is a fantastic deal as you can easily get more than 1p per Avios value on a ticket.
Star Alliance Gold (maybe)
This one's causing a bit of a stir inside my head. It's almost totally unnecessary if I have OneWorld Emerald and don't fly much for work. If I do travel often then this will be a good one to have.
The usual suspects for *A gold are Aegean Airlines, Asiana Airlines or Turkish Airlines. I doubt I'd be willing to buy a business class or first class ticket using cash (unless work stumps up for it!) so that eliminates Aegean on the basis that their redemption value isn't as good as the other two.
Hilton Gold (already qualified)
If promotions like last year's unwritten ‘sign up and we'll give you Gold' come by again this year then this is a no-brainer. I'm gold in 2013 by virtue of my last year's spend on my Hhonors credit card. Once that expires I can activate gold again using my American Express Platinum card – hence the ‘already qualified' tag.
Despite my love of premium travel, I can't really justify anything more than the above given my personal circumstances. I'd certainly love to be able to trigger a few more bonuses but there needs to be some rewards for the effort. Most of the targets will be reassessed once I'm into full swing at work, so expect an update around mid-summer.
Here's to a successful 2013! Cheers!