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United Pulls Back the Curtain on Polaris and Delta Gouges Members Who Want to Buy Extra MQMs

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United’s much-heralded Polaris lounge and inflight product are finally here. The airline rolled out the new offering Dec. 1 and will slowly make its way across the airline’s network in the coming months and year. Delta also put its MQMs on sale, but the prices will make your jaw drop. At least, Air France and KLM have put some awards on sale and Aeroplan (Air Canada) has some free miles up for grabs.

United unveils Polaris lounge in Chicago; launches new premium, long-haul amenities

United made headlines when it opened its new premium Polaris lounge at Chicago O’Hare recently. Among the amenities are sit-down customer assistance areas, individually prepared a la carte and buffet meals, craft cocktails that can be tailored based upon one’s destination, napping and shower rooms with heated floors, private workstations, and laundry service. Polaris is United’s next evolution of premium service, which is replacing Business First and Global First going forward. As part of Polaris service, premium, long-haul passengers now enjoy new duvets, pillows and mattress toppers from Saks Fifth Avenue, updated, chef-inspired meals served on new china and cutlery, a Bloody Mary and Champagne cart on morning departures, and new amenity kits. Flights over 12 hours will be provisioned with pajamas for passengers. The biggest enhancement will be when the airline rolls out its new all-aisle-access flat-bed seats on its new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft later this year, which will be the first official Polaris-branded seats (coming later on other aircraft).

United opens new Polaris lounge
Polaris is United’s next evolution of premium service

Citi AAdvantage credit card changes elite qualifying mileage earning period

The comes with a nice perk for those that spend at least $40,000 on the card each year. It awards you a bonus 10,000 elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) to help you requalify for status. Previously, the year in which you had to spend $40,000 was from the date you were approved for the card through to your anniversary date. Beginning next year, it will be based upon the calendar year (the same way that Delta and United handle their spending thresholds for bonus miles). But, if you’re earning American status in 2017, don’t forget there are new revenue requirements to be aware of meaning not only do you have to fly a certain amount, but spend a certain amount with the airline, too.

Double Membership Rewards through the end of the year

In other credit card news, American Express credit cardholders can earn twice as many Membership Rewards points when shopping at one of a select number of retailers between now and the end of the year. A wide variety of stores is included like Banana Republic, Nehman Marcus, Old Navy, Target, and Williams-Sonoma among others. You must register your card for any eligible offers at each store on the American Express website before making a purchase.

Earn double Membership Rewards when shopping

Earn bonus Aeroplan miles

Aeroplan is throwing 150 miles your way for answering a few questions via a survey between now and Dec. 16. While 150 miles will hardly get you anywhere, it could be a great way to extend the validity of your mileage balance since Aeroplan expires miles after 12 months of no activity.

Use Delta SkyMiles for Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy

Just because you can use Delta miles to reserve a seat in Virgin Atlantic’s premium economy class, does not mean you should. The value proposition is not that great given the exorbitant cost of 55,000 SkyMiles each way. That’s almost twice the cost of economy class redemptions and only 15,000 less than what it costs to go in Upper Class. The absolutely only reason someone should plop down that many miles is if there is no availability in Upper Class (or even economy class). That high price is simply not worth it for premium economy redemptions (although Delta knows that many unassuming travelers will book it and diminish the value of their miles in the process).

Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy
Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy cabin

Delta sells MQMs to elite members, but oh the prices!

Delta often sells MQMs toward the end of the year to its elite members that are short of making it to the next elite tier. This is helpful if you are running short of time and have no additional travel planned. But, the prices seem a bit out of line; Silver members can buy 1,000 MQMs for $495 while Platinum members can buy 1,000 MQMs for $1,495. Silver members can buy 10,000 MQMs for $1,395 while Platinum members must pay $2,995. Since the benefits are certainly greater for higher tiers, it makes sense that the cost to reach those higher levels is more, but still the cost seems excessive (a mileage run might be a better option). Delta must have data that show that some desperate members might actually pay these prices. A couple of important things to note is that any cash spent on the purchase of MQMs or segments qualifies toward Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) plus the option to purchase MQMs to rollover for the next year is available (although not recommended at these prices). You can purchase miles before Dec. 31 to reach status for next year, but you can also buy miles up until Feb. 15 if you need to stock up on MQMs for next year’s qualification. Diamond Medallion members are not eligible for this promotion.

Flying Blue discounts award travel for early next year

In Flying Blue’s latest installment of award pricing discounts, travelers can shave off 25% of the cost of an award redemption. Reservations must be made by the end of the year, and travel can take place during February and March of next year. Valid routes in business class include between Toronto and Vancouver and Europe. Economy class redemptions are available between Europe and Mexico City or Washington Dulles. Don’t forget that Flying Blue is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards. 

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