Monday, December 20, 2010

Citi AA 75K Visa/Amex

Offer extended to 2/28/2011, $4k spending needed in 6months. Get them while you can. 
Apply for two at the same time to get 150K AA miles.

See what can 75K/150K miles get you:
AA Award Chart


Airline miles are not hard to earn these days, but not all miles are created equal. Do you know the difference between of EQMs and RDMs? Do you want to get upgraded every time you fly or do you just want a free ticket?

Elite Qualification Miles (EQM), often times also known as Butt-in-seat miles (BIS) are miles that you earn the hard way, meaning you actually have to sit for these flights to get the miles. These miles count toward your qualification for elite status with the airline. 25K EQMs can get you Silver with the major U.S. Airlines. Granted, Silver will not get you the best upgrade percentage, but it's still better than nothing. You get free checked bag, some bonus miles for flying, priority check-in, etc...

Redeemable Miles (RDM) include bonus miles you earn from flying aside from EQMs and miles you earn without flying. Such as promotional miles you earn from credit cards, hotel stays, rental cars, shopping, dinning, etc... These miles do not count toward qualification of your elite status. They, however, can get you free ticket to your dream destination provided that you have enough of them for an award redemption.

25k miles may sound like alot of flying consider NYC-Hong Kong is less than 8k miles. But occasionally, airlines will run promotions that give out bonus EQMs. This year's example is Delta and American's Double EQM promotion for RT flights from/to any of the 4 airports (BNA, STL, PIT, RDU). I did one run out of PIT which I will discuss later.

Also these days, you can have enough EQMs to be a Silver or even Gold Elite without even stepping your foot on an aircraft. Although I think that sort of defeats the purpose of having Elite status in the first place. If you're not flying enough, you won't really benefit from having status with your preferred airlines. There are numerous credit card offers that reward EQMs when you sign up with promise you additional EQMs when reaching a specific spending threshold. Airlines often transfer from one program to another. This year's example is Delta's offering of 25K EQMs for transfer of 50K Amex Membership Rewards points into Delta's SkyMiles account.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

41% Off Gourmet Pasta Delivery & Pick-Up at Hello Pasta! (NYC Only)

$11 for 2 meals

Offer Ends 11/02 at 10AM ET.

Includes lunch for two people for the price of one. This comes with any two pastas with any two sauces.
This offer can be redeemed at the Hello Pasta locations on either Lexington Avenue or Third Avenue.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Airline Experience: ChinaEastern (MU)

I consider myself pretty well traveled, at least within the last 3 or 4 years. For me, the journey of getting to my destination is just as important as the destination. I actually enjoy getting on a plane. Believe it or not, I get a 'high' every time the plane takes off the run way. If I don't fly somewhere every 3-5 months, I'll get withdrawal symptoms. Okay, I digress...

Every airline has its ups and downs service wise, and also pros and cons in terms of its hard product (aircraft configuration, in-flight service, route, schedule, etc...). However, there's one airline I vow to never fly again, ChinaEastern (MU), due to the following reasons:

1) Seat configuration in Economy/Coach Class is ridiculously tight. They sure want to pack in as many passengers as they possibly can without violating laws and regulations. Both tray space and leg room are the worst I've ever experienced, even worse than Air China.

2) In-flight meals are terrible. I wish I've brought my own Nong Shim cup noodle on to the flight. In fact, I saw people taking it out of their backpack and eating it. Just ask the FA for some hot water. It's 1000 times better than their garbage fried rice and chow mien.

3) No entertainment system or in-seat power on long-haul flights. Imaging going from JFK-PVG, 15 hours in the air with out AVOD or power? Lord have mercy. It's tough, my laptop can only hold out for 5 hours max. And did I mention the sears are extremely uncomfortable, good luck of trying to get any sleep in it. 

4) Rude staff and not exactly nice fellow passengers. Maybe the airfare is usually cheaper and generally sold through asian or more specifically chinese travel agencies, MU flights tend to be fully loaded. You have too many passengers lacking basic flyer etiquette. They have too many (or too big of) carry-ons, they don't sit in their assigned seats, they speak like they're shouting, they block the aisle, etc... Flight attendants get frustrated over a few ill-mannered passengers, and this ruins things for everybody.

Usually, Asian airlines offer a much better product and services than the U.S. carriers. Singapore Airline, Cathay, Thai, and Korean are consistently rated as the best in the industry. But I will avoid carriers of Mainland China like the plague if you are flying coach due to lack of seat comfort, inedible meals, poor if not nonexistent entertainment systems (AVOD), and rude staff/novice fellow passengers. However, if the $ difference in airfare justifies your decision to fly with them, by all means go with it and experience it for yourself. To me, my personal comfort is worth no less than $200 on a 15 hour flight even if I need to connect somewhere. And considering I can earn better rewards with the other airlines, I just do not see myself on another MU flight for a long while. Sure MU has its own FFM program, but it ain't worth bothering given my travel pattern. Unless they have a mistake fare like JFK-PVG for $99, then maybe, just maybe, I'll bite.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

MC Event: Locande Verde

This is the first MasterCard dinning event I was able to get in. The competition was fierce, so I was really excited to be one of the lucky few. The best part? It's a fried chicken feast, something not available on Locande Verde's regular menu. I've heard a lot of Locande Verde and its Michelin Starred chef Andrew Carmellini. This is my first taste of AC's culinary skills. Menu first.

Appetizer - shrimp was large, sweet, and fresh. If I had to be picky, I would prefer to have the head removed, so eating it would be easier. The sauce actually tasted like salsa, not very memorable.

Sides - I'm not a veggie person, the salad was alright, and the collard green reminded me of a very traditional Chinese dish. The mashed potatoes and the honey biscuits are absolutely the best I've ever had in my life. Yup, you heard me right, the best I've ever had. So smooth and buttery, I can eat them every day.


Main - The fried chicken was piping hot, perfectly fried, juicy inside, and crispy outside. My only and biggest complain? It's under seasoned/marinated. In a way, it tasted kind of bland to me. My dinning companion agreed with me. But we also wondered if it's because both of us have a salt heavy diet, our taste buds ain't easily stimulated no more. However, others who attended the event seem to agree with us on the lack of seasoning part, so obviously there's room for improvement.

Dessert - I don't really remember the names of the two pies offered. One is banana cream something with shaved almond and shredded coconut. The other one is honey blueberry something served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I liked the banana cream better because it was lighter, the blueberry was overly sweet, like a sugar bomb.

I had great expectations about the fried chicken at Locande Verde, especially since they were ranked #3 on New York Magazine's "Nine fried chickens to eat before you die".  I mean, they were good, don't get me wrong, but I wouldn't consider it 'to die for' good. The mashed potatoes and the biscuits, on the other hand, were right on point. Unfortunately, they ain't available on the regular menu either. However, rumor has it that Andrew C. is planning a new restaurant featuring his fried chicken. I would definitely go there just for the sides and maybe give the fried chicken another go.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hhonors Account Reinstated

I have accumulated some Hilton Honors(HH) Points from a previous life. Yet due to a number of factors, I no longer stay with them. In fact, my last stay at a Hilton was in June 2009. This past weekend, I don’t know what made me check on my HH account, but I’m glad I did because I discovered a shocker. I was not able to log in as my account is 'no longer active'. This of course spurred a moment of panic within me. Then I looked up Hilton’s expiration policy on points. Voila, points expire after 12 months of inactivity. Somehow, I thought it’s the standard 24 months like most pf the other programs. Really wanted to kick myself that very moment.

So what to do now. No way I’m gonna let it go without a fight. I sent an email to HH Customer Service pleading my case. Then as impatient as I am, I called them up, begging them to reinstate my account and give back my points. The CSR said I’ll need to have one paid stay within the next 60 days with Hilton, then call within 3 days to have my points re-deposited into my account. Okay, I think that’s pretty fair considering I’m the one that dropped the ball. But then it occurred to me, in this great city I live, hotel is not cheap. I suppose shelling out a few hundred to for these points is worth it. So I made a random reservation and gave up, but still secretly wishing that the HH Email Team would come up with something more favorable.

Lo and behold, 2 days later, I received a response from HH Customer Service, Saying that they’ll credit back my account as an one-time courtesy. OMG, my prayers worked, thank you God.

Moral of the story, never give up without trying. Try different alternatives, you never know...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yummy Chicken Nuggets

During my layover at CVG last Friday, I got the Chick-Fil-A nuggets as a mid-day snack. I love CFL, too bad they don’t have a presence on the east coast. The nuggets were tender, juicy, and perfectly seasoned the way I like it. It was the best Chicken Nuggets I’ve ever had, period. Maybe the best airport food I've had in years. They were real chicken meat from the breast or perhaps the thigh, not the mushy & mashed up kind you get from McDonald’s & Wendy’s. I don’t know if they were fried or not, they certainly didn’t look like fried, at least not heavily with coating. All in all, I think the quality and the taste along justifies its price tag, 2X of McD’s yet nugget size is half of a McD’s. I devoured these and almost went back for more. But I refrained, for my belly’s sake and knowing there’s Biscoff Cookies to be had on my next flight…