Deal Alert: US to Spain on Full-Service Carriers from $363 Round-Trip

Deal Alert: US to Spain on Full-Service Carriers from $363 Round-Trip

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Want to see the latest flight deals as soon as they’re published? Follow The Points Guy on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to text message alerts from our deals feed, @tpg_alerts.

Airfare deals are typically only available on limited dates. We recommend you use Google Flights to find dates to fly, then book through an online travel agency such as Orbitz or Expedia, which allows you to cancel flights without penalty by 11pm Eastern Time within one day of booking. However, if you’re using the American Express Platinum Card, you’ll need to book directly with the airline or through Amex Travel portal to get 5x MR points. Remember: Fares may disappear quickly, so book right away and take advantage of Orbitz or Expedia’s courtesy cancellation if you’re unable to get the time away from work or family.

Strong competition from budget carriers like LEVEL and Norwegian has driven full-service carriers to offer sub-$400 round-trip tickets to major Spanish cities Madrid (MAD) and Barcelona (BCN). These itineraries are mostly available in the fall and winter months, but you don’t need any tricks to find these deals. The easiest way to find these bargains is to search for dates via Google Flights, then book on OrbitzExpedia or directly with the airline itself. Since these are international trips on full-service carriers you can expect complimentary checked bags, meals and seat selection.

Airline: Air Canada, American Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Iberia, Swiss, United
Routes: EWR/JFK/LAX to BCN/MAD
Cost: $363+ round-trip in economy
Dates: September 2018 to March 2019
Booking Link: OrbitzExpedia or directly with the airline
Pay With: The Platinum Card from American Express (5x on airfare), Chase Sapphire Reserve, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Citi Prestige (3x on airfare plus excellent trip delay insurance) or Chase Sapphire Preferred (2x on travel)

Newark (EWR) to Barcelona (BCN) for $362 round-trip in November:

Newark (EWR) to Madrid (MAD) for $387 round-trip in November:

New York (JFK) to Madrid (MAD) for $394 round-trip in January:

Los Angeles (LAX) to Barcelona (BCN) for $419 round-trip in October via Expedia:

Los Angeles (LAX) to Madrid (MAD) for $527 round-trip in November:

Maximize Your Purchase

Don’t forget to use a credit card that earns additional points on airfare purchases, such as the American Express Platinum Card (5x on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel), Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Premier Rewards Gold or Citi Prestige (3x on airfare) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on all travel purchases). Check out this post for more on maximizing airfare purchases.

Featured photo of Park Guell in Barcelona by MasterLu / Getty Images.

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June 5, 2018 at 10:01PM

How a Common United Ticketing Glitch Almost Made Me Miss My Flight

How a Common United Ticketing Glitch Almost Made Me Miss My Flight

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This weekend, I made my way from Bergen, Norway (BGO) to my home in New York. Norwegian flies nonstop between BGO and Newburgh Airport (SWF), about 90 minutes north of the city, and fares are often dirt-cheap, but I wanted to add a new review to the list. That brought me from Bergen to Oslo (OSL) and on to Warsaw (WAW) to catch my LOT 787-9 Dreamliner flight to JFK.

Changing the Ticket

We booked the all-business-class trip using 70,000 MileagePlus miles, which meant any changes needed to be made through United. When I received an email informing me that my flight from Bergen would be delayed by 45 minutes, causing me to misconnect, I called up UA’s Premier 1K line and asked to be moved to a later flight to Warsaw. Apparently, that change resulted in my ticket to fall “out of sync.”

In this case, that meant that the new ticket number United assigned hadn’t been passed over from UA’s reservations system, Sabre, to Scandinavian’s system, Amadeus. I knew something was up when I couldn’t check in for the SAS flight online, especially since I could check into my connecting LOT flights without issue. I also wasn’t able to access the reservation on UA’s site, so I gave the 1K desk another call.

The agent tried pulling up the reservation through Scandinavian’s site as well, and saw the same error, but insisted that the ticket had been properly reissued. She even checked with several other agents, who confirmed the same. Still, out of an abundance of caution, she suggested that I arrive at Bergen Airport a bit earlier, just in case I had trouble checking in.

The Airport Agent Fix

I arrived at the airport about 20 minutes earlier than originally planned — 90 minutes before my departure time. I first tried the kiosk, where I received the following error message:

My next stop was the check-in desk — with most of the check-in process entirely automated, there were only two available agents, offering assistance to both SAS and Wideroe passengers. After a five-minute wait in the business-class line, the agent attempted several times to check me in, then called over her colleagues to take a look.

When they couldn’t figure it out, I was referred to the “service center,” a short walk away. The agent there identified the problem quickly, explaining that my Bergen to Oslo flight didn’t have a ticket number assigned. Fortunately, my LOT boarding pass email did have the ticket number listed, so I provided that to the agent and she typed it in. An SAS boarding pass printed a moment later.

Other Partner Award Issues

This isn’t the first time I’ve had problems with a partner award booked by United. The most common challenge I run into is with award space that doesn’t actually exist — in the biz, we call this “phantom space.” If you’re especially persistent, and you manage to get the “phantom” award added to your ticket as “waitlisted,” you might be able to get your request escalated to a “Star Alliance liaison,” who can work with the partner airline to get the ticket issued. This isn’t always successful, and it can take an awful lot of calling around.

Another common issue is partner space that appears, and is legitimate, but comes back unconfirmed after 24 hours. I’ve had this happen with a handful of partners — even Air Canada. Typically, the ticket is never issued in this case, and sometimes a United agent will email you or give you a call to discuss alternatives.

Other times the only way to know your ticket wasn’t issued is to pull it up on United’s website, so I always check my award bookings on UA’s site a few days after making a reservation. This issue caused TPG’s friends to miss a flight to South Africa, since the partner, South African Airways, insisted that the ticket had never been issued by United, and — with the flight entirely full in business class — there was nothing they could do.

Finally, I’ve booked a handful of awards or paid partner flights where United displays seat assignments that don’t match those actually reserved with the carrier. Always ask United for the partner confirmation number and confirm your seat assignments with the operating carrier — if you book a Lufthansa flight through United, head over to LH’s site with your Lufthansa confirmation number and make sure you have the seats you want. I’d say the seats displayed on United.com are inaccurate more often than not.

Bottom Line

Since my flight was delayed, ultimately I ended up making it on board — had it left on time, however, I almost certainly would have missed it, and the onward flight to Warsaw. Because United was convinced that the ticket was reissued correctly, it’s not clear who would have taken responsibility for getting me home.

Ultimately, while airline agents may do everything they can to make sure you can fly if a booking system glitch results in a ticketing issue, finding and implementing a solution can take time — if you’re cutting it close, you might end up missing your flight. In this case, United was convinced that everything was buttoned up — what the agents didn’t realize is that while the ticket appeared a-okay in Sabre, the ticket number had fallen off in Amadeus.

It ended up being my responsibility to recognize that there was an issue, and even to help find a solution. If you have a feeling that something isn’t quite right, make sure you leave plenty of time to get it sorted at the airport.

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June 5, 2018 at 09:31PM

Review: Charlie Puth’s “Voicenotes”

Review: Charlie Puth’s “Voicenotes”

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The strange trinity of YouTube, Ellen DeGeneres, and the “Fast and the Furious” franchise shuttled the twenty-six-year-old Charlie Puth to fame. In the early twenty-tens, his channel Charlies Vlogs, which featured videos of him performing covers and original songs, gained hundreds of thousands of followers; in 2012, DeGeneres brought him on her talk show and signed him to her record label; in 2015, right out of Berklee College of Music, he wrote—“in, like, ten minutes,” he has said—one of the most commercially successful singles of the decade, the pop-rap dirge “See You Again,” for the “Furious 7” soundtrack. The song, a tribute to the franchise’s late star, Paul Walker, is almost impressive in its lethargy.

So was Puth’s début album. Full of bland doo-wop ballads, “Nine Track Mind” was, according to Metacritic, one of the worst-reviewed albums of all time. Puth seemed a genuine talent strained by nostalgia-baiting and the exigencies of social media. So you could imagine my surprise when “Voicenotes,” his follow-up, turned out to be a pleasure. Puth, who produces his own songs, prods the caverns of R. & B. and pop with a slinky confidence. He’s reverent but audacious: when he has Boyz II Men provide the backing vocals to “If You Leave Me Now,” the listener doesn’t balk. The opener, “The Way I Am,” includes a riff that shadows the iconic notes of “Beat It”; the next track, “Attention,” uses the bass to build a cocky groove. Unlike many of his peers, Puth remains committed to the joys of a well-wrought chorus, and his nimble refrains deserve comparison to the heyday of Taylor Swift. The loose narrative of “Voicenotes” winds around Puth’s West Coast malaise. (He grew up in New Jersey.) A song called “LA Girls” produces the memorable lyrics: “There was Nikki, Nicole, Tiffany, and Heather . . . . But you say I change like the East Coast weather.” Such lines bottle the absurdist fizz of Instagram, the shrugs of the Snapchat nouveaux riches, and a pouting male insecurity. What keeps it from collapsing into schlock is the pure charisma of Puth’s songwriting.

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June 5, 2018 at 09:26PM

Deal Alert: NYC to Milan and Athens from $491 Nonstop Round-Trip on Emirates

Deal Alert: NYC to Milan and Athens from $491 Nonstop Round-Trip on Emirates

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Want to see the latest flight deals as soon as they’re published? Follow The Points Guy on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to text message alerts from our deals feed, @tpg_alerts.

Airfare deals are typically only available on limited dates. We recommend that you use Google Flights to find dates to fly, then book through an online travel agency, such as Orbitz or Expedia, which allows you to cancel flights without penalty by 11pm Eastern Time within one day of booking. However, if you’re using the American Express Platinum Card, you’ll need to book directly with the airline or through Amex Travel portal to get 5x MR points. Remember: Fares may disappear quickly, so book right away and take advantage of Orbitz or Expedia’s courtesy cancellation if you’re unable to get the time away from work or family.

Once again, Emirates is offering its popular round-trip deal to Europe from New York, on its fifth-freedom flights between New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP) as well as from Newark (EWR) to Athens (ATH). Available dates begin in mid-September and are available through April 2019, with a lull over the holiday season. Do note that, even though these rates are cheaper than usual, they are pricier than past Emirates deals that have been offered – about $100 more expensive round-trip than last August’s JFK-Milan sale fare. You can use Google Flights to search for your dates. Most dates for the Milan route appear to be pricing at $504 on Google Flights, but will drop to $491 on the Emirates website. Fares can be held for 72 hours on the Emirates booking page.

Airline: Emirates
Route:  JFK to MXP, EWR to ATH
Cost: $491+ round-trip to Milan, $590+ round-trip to Athens
Dates: September – December 2018, January – April 2019
Booking Link: Emirates
Pay With: The Platinum Card from American Express (5x on airfare), Chase Sapphire Reserve, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Citi Prestige (3x on airfare) or Chase Sapphire Preferred (2x on travel)

Here are a few examples of what you can book:

New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP) for $491 round-trip in September:

New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP) for $491 round-trip in October:

New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP) for $491 round-trip in January:

New York (JFK) to Milan (MXP) for $504 round-trip in March:

Newark (EWR) to Athens (ATH) for $590 round-trip in October:

Newark (EWR) to Athens (ATH) for $590 round-trip in November:

Maximize Your Purchase

Don’t forget to use a credit card that earns additional points on airfare purchases, such as the American Express Platinum Card (5x on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel), Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Premier Rewards Gold or Citi Prestige (3x on airfare) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on all travel purchases). Check out this post for more on maximizing airfare purchases.

If you’re able to score one of these tickets, please share the good news in the comments below!

Featured image of Athens courtesy of Noel.

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June 5, 2018 at 09:17PM

80% of Japan’s Airbnbs Disappeared Overnight

80% of Japan’s Airbnbs Disappeared Overnight

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If you’re looking for an Airbnb in Japan, you may have a bit more trouble finding one. Last weekend, Airbnb removed over 40,000 Japenese listings from the homesharing site.

According to Japanese newspaper Nikkei Asian Review, the number of Airbnbs “plummeted nearly 80% to about 13,800.” Before the drastic measure, there were more than 62,000 listings in the country.

In an effort to comply with Japan’s new homesharing law that goes into effect on June 15, Airbnb decided to remove listings that didn’t have a government permit.

Until recently, homeowners were required to obtain a hotel permit or receive a certification in a special economic zone if they wanted to rent out their homes to travelers. Most hosts didn’t obtain either certifications leaving them in an ambiguous legal state.

The new law will streamline the process for acquiring a homesharing license and permits hosts to rent out their home, or a room in their home for up to 180 days per year.

Japanese authorities sent out a notification of enforcement earlier than expected prompting the rush by Airbnb to remove illegal listings. Airbnb notified homeowners over that weekend that on Monday their listings would be taken down unless they could show proper permits or registration information. Homes or rooms that were removed can be restored after hosts provide proof that their listing is up to snuff.

It still may be difficult to list a residence on Airbnb since cities have been establishing their own regulations on top of the national government’s. Some restrict the number of days a home can be listed while entire areas of towns are off limits to any sort of homesharing.

HomeAway, an Airbnb competitor owned by Expedia, will remove unregistered properties in Japan on June 15, too. Airbnb is dealing with other serious legal issues across the globe, including a lawsuit in Paris that alleges the company didn’t remove illegal listings from the website. Spain’s been cracking down on unlicensed rental homes with the government fining hosts and imposing new regulations on homesharing.

We’ve reached out to Airbnb for comment on what it plans on doing for reservations at listings that have been taken down. The company has not responded by time of publication.

H/T: Nikkei Asian Review

Featured image courtesy of Airbnb.

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June 5, 2018 at 08:30PM

Join The Points Guy for a Reader Event in London on Monday

Join The Points Guy for a Reader Event in London on Monday

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Hey TPG readers, we have a special announcement for you! The Points Guy is heading to London next week and you could join him for a specially curated dinner on Monday, June 11, to talk about TPG‘s potential expansion in the United Kingdom. The UK is our second-biggest market after the United States, and Brian wants insights from residents on travel and the credit card market — and what they would like to see in a future UK-based TPG site.

If you want to attend, tell us about yourself — what’s your favorite airline, what do you do now, how often do you travel, and what credit cards do you have or want to have. Email rvsp@thepointsguy.com and we’ll let you know if you’re chosen.

Since our founding in 2010, TPG has grown into the premier destination for points & miles content, and a trusted source of travel and aviation news, with 6 million unique monthly readers.

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June 5, 2018 at 08:16PM

South African Airways Wants to Send Pilots to Other Airlines

South African Airways Wants to Send Pilots to Other Airlines

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After years of financial losses, South African Airways is trying to cut costs by offering pilots and cabin crew to major global carriers. Bloomberg reports that SAA’s Chief Executive Officer Vuyani Jarana did not reveal how many pilots and flight attendants could lose their jobs or be transferred, but in an interview he explained measures including eliminating destinations within Africa and reducing capacity or cutting half the flights from the airline’s Johannesburg base to London.

The airline hasn’t generated a profit since 2011 and has a three-year turnaround plan. SAA has explored options to transfer pilots to rival airlines Kenya Airways and Air Mauritius, as well as Emirates, Turkish, and Ethiopian Airlines, Jarana told Bloomberg. Jarana said these transfers will create new partnerships and help the airline shrink, with the possibility of staff returning if SAA can generate a profit. However, the CEO does not plan to leave Star Alliance, the global airline alliance of which SAA is a member, along with United Airlines.

This all comes at time when airlines are actively seeking pilots to combat a pilot shortage. The global shortage of pilots was a one of the factors that caused Emirates to cut flights and, in April, at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, the airline’s CEO Tim Clark said Emirates was short at least 100 pilots. Within the next 20 years, North American airlines will be in need of over 100,000 new pilots, and the shortage is expected to reach over 2,000 by 2025, according to a report by Statista. The report also noted that Republic Airways’ 2016 bankruptcy  was in part due to lack of qualified pilots and that last year Europe’s biggest low-fare airline, Ryanair, canceled more than 2,000 flights because it did not have enough pilots.

Featured image of a South African Airways Airbus A340-300 by Mayall/ullstein bild via Getty Images

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June 5, 2018 at 08:05PM

Celebrating spareness and solitude in the Jordanian wilderness

Celebrating spareness and solitude in the Jordanian wilderness

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After hiking through welcoming villages where a cup of tea was always offered, our featured contributor Leon McCarron was struck by the sparseness of the landscape as he traveled the southern reaches of the Jordan Trail.

“Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit.”—Edward Abbey

So often, the beating heart of any travel experience are the interactions and human connections we make along the way. I’ve found these to be the elements of journeying—and indeed life—that become the catalyst for some fundamental emotional change within me.

But let me talk also of landscape. I’ve found that wilderness too has the power to shift one’s mood, or to wrench thought and feeling into an entirely new sphere in an instant. To feel a landscape—to be dwarfed by mountains or swallowed by ocean or humbled by the vastness of any new, natural scene—is one of the great joys of life.

For those of us who live in cities, being a part of this is seen sometimes as a luxury, but as Edward Abbey wrote so forcefully above: This is not true. We need it, and fortunately, there are still plenty of places on our planet where we can seek it out.

In 2016, I walked along the Jordan Trail, a new and audacious (and brilliant) hiking route that winds its way from Umm Qais in the north to Aqaba on the shores of the Red Sea. The early parts of the journey were filled with small villages and towns and sporadic Bedouin tents, and five, 10, 20 times a day I’d stop to drink tea and talk with those who lived along the trail. As I moved south, however those communities became more sparse—and empty, wild landscape took over.

RELATED: Is walking the most adventurous way to travel?

In the center of the country were three wadis (valleys) that ran laterally across my path, making their way west towards the Jordan River valley. They were: Wadi Zarqa Ma’In, Wadi Hidan, and Wadi Mujib, pictured above.

I’ve heard this latter gorge be referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Middle East, and it’s easy to see why. To cross each canyon required a descent of hundreds of meters to a hot, humid, riverbed, and then a lung-busting haul all the way back up to the plateau on the other side.

A few days on, beyond the city of Kerak, I walked into changeable weather and, above the natural hot springs at a place called Burbeita, I found an overhanging rock under which I could pitch my tent.

At dusk, I thought I had the mountains all to myself, but as darkness filled the sky, small pinpricks of light appeared at two or three places on the hillside; the sign of others—shepherds, surely—also spending the night under the gray clouds. We would never meet, but sometimes, when alone in an unfamiliar place, it’s enough to know that there are others out there, sharing the same sky.

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June 5, 2018 at 07:38PM

Belgians Are so Serious About Fries and Mayo, They Want UNESCO Recognition

Belgians Are so Serious About Fries and Mayo, They Want UNESCO Recognition

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Belgium is on a mission to be featured on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list for their beloved fries and mayonnaise combo. Since Belgian mayonnaise producer, Natura, ignited a petition for the dish to be added, it has since reached 600 signatures.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) list is currently comprised of 470 items that span the spectrum of traditional practices. Although Belgium is already recognized on the list for “shrimp fishing on horseback in Oostduinkerke” among other things, the country is adamant that their fries and mayo, typically served in a cone, are a vital aspect of cultural heritage in the region.

One petition signer, Fred Kot, commented “fry without mayo is like a couple without cuddling.” Another, Nath Tura, was more aggressive, ordering “do not send fries without mayo to UNESCO!”

If you want to see what the hype is all about, you can buy yourself a cone of the delicacy almost anywhere in Belgium. The stands they’re sold in are so common that they’d be difficult to miss. And hey, if you like it enough, feel free to sign the petition yourself!

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June 5, 2018 at 07:31PM

Meet the Commenters!

Meet the Commenters!

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  • Liana Finck has been contributing cartoons to the magazine since 2013. Her first graphic novel, “A Bintel Brief,” was published in 2014. Her second, “Passing for Human,” will come out in September.

    Read more »

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June 5, 2018 at 07:04PM