Did You Know Active Military Members Get Free American Airlines Lounge Access?

I like to think I know quite a bit about points/miles/frequent flyer programs etc. but even after 2.5 years of blogging, I’m still learning new things and this tip is a good one for our active military members. This weekend I learned that American Airlines offers active military members complimentary lounge access to their Admirals Club when flying on American Airlines just for being active military! They even have the policy documented on their website.

AA Lounge Access for Military Members

My friend, Navy Lieutenant Jon S., shared this with me as he was returning from a weekend trip to Gulfport. He lives in Rhode Island and always has a connection through Charlotte when flying on American Airlines which is a hub for American after the US Airways-American Airlines merger. While waiting out his connection in Charlotte, he simply showed the agent at the front desk of the Admirals Club his military ID and was admitted access. This generous policy also allows access for immediate family or two guests. Per the documented policy, you need to show both a military ID and working orders but in Jon’s case he was never asked for his orders (which he did have on him).

I took a look at some airlines to see if they had a similar policy and only United comes close, though it is much more restrictive. If a military member is on Rest & Recuperation (R&R) leave, then he/she will be admitted to United clubs but unfortunately no guests are allowed. Additionally, some airports have USO centers which military members have access to. 

I’d like to commend American Airlines for offering this perk to those who bravely serve our country. Its been a weekend of learning for me – between learning another flaw in Marriott’s program to finding out about this free lounge access policy for military members. I only wish I knew about this sooner so I could have shared this with those traveling for the military.

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Do This Today, Not Tomorrow: Book AA Awards Before Tuesday’s Devaluation

Of course, you all know about the impending American Airlines award chart devaluation on Tuesday, 3/22. There is no denying it is one of the larger and more impactful devaluations we’ve seen in a while – especially if you use your miles to fly first or business class. Here is the new award chart compared to the old one with some of the major changes highlighted below (all figures are for one way).

  • First class flights from the US to the Middle East go from 90,000 miles to 115,000 miles
  • First class flights from the US to South Asia go from 67,500 miles to 110,000 miles (this one hurts the most)
  • First class flights from the US to Australia go from 72,500 miles to 110,000 miles
  • Business class flights from the US to South Asia go from 55,000 miles to 70,000 miles
  • Business class flights from the US to Australia go from 62,500 miles to 80,000 miles
  • Economy off-peak flights from the US to Europe go from 20,000 miles to 22,500 miles but the bigger impact are the dates considered off-peak. Previously it was October 15th to May 15th but is now just November 1 to December 14 and January 10 to March 14.
Etihad First Class will now cost 115,000 miles one-way

Etihad First Class will now cost 115,000 miles one-way

My big piece of advice is to try and book any awards TODAY and do not wait until the last minute tomorrow. This is especially true if you are looking to book certain partner awards, including popular awards such as first/business class on Cathay & Etihad, as those cannot be booked online. I fully imagine the hold times on the phone will order on outrageous at some point tomorrow (and maybe even at times today). If you can beat that rush of last minute bookings, you might save yourself some valuable time.

Other helpful tips include trying to call the foreign AA offices to book awards, which might not be as busy as the main US number. This will be especially helpful if you are booking Etihad awards as the Australian AA office can see awards the US office cannot. The contact number for the AA Australian call center is +61-2-91011948.

Do This Today: Hyatt Suite Upgrades (for 2017!), SPG Bookings and More

There are several promotions or other noteworthy items that are expiring or changing on March 1st so I put together a quick to do list as you are hopefully enjoying your Sunday.

1) Use your expiring Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrades (especially for March 2017 stays) – I don’t need to rehash the changes in full about the Diamond Suite Upgrades – in short, Hyatt is changing the policy that you can’t use them for stays after they expire. However, they are letting you book any remaining suite upgrades (the ones that expire tomorrow 2/29) for stays after they expire. My advice is to first use these expiring suite upgrades for any March 2017 stay first.

Why? When the new 2016 Diamond Suite Upgrades are released in March, I presume they will expire 2/28/17. With the new policy, you will not be able to book any trips for March 2017 using a DSU until the 2017 Suite Upgrades are released on 3/1/17 – that kind of stinks as it forces you to use it last minute (if even available) for a March 2017 stay. But you can book those March 2017 stays now using your 2015 DSU that expire tomorrow. It seems strange but it’s true. Unfortunately, you can only book 13 months in advance on Hyatt otherwise I would recommend this strategy for any possible 2017 stay. 

Hyatt DSU

Now I understand many people don’t know about their travel plans ~13 months in advance but if you have any inkling of a trip you’d like to take that would involve a Hyatt Diamond Suite upgrade, I’d book it now knowing you can always cancel it later for free (though you obviously lose the DSU at that time, which isn’t a big loss considering you are losing it tomorrow if you don’t book anything with it).

2) Book Starwood Hotels before the March 1st Devaluation – As part of their annual category changes, Starwood has released the list of hotels that will be either moving up or down a category for 2016. These changes go into effect for bookings made on March 1st so you can lock in the pre-devaluation rate if you book before March 1st, even if your stay is after that date. Some of the noteworthy hotels increasing in categories are:

  • The Walt Disney World Swan – Category 4 to Category 5
  • Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa – Category 5 to Category 6
  • The Westin Maui Resort & Spa – Category 5 to Category 6
  • The Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort (Cancun) – Category 5 to Category 6
  • The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach – Category 5 to Category 6 (particularly bummed about this one)
Westin Grand Cayman

Westin Grand Cayman

3) Consider Applying for a American Airlines Citibank Credit Card – All of the bloggers who have Citibank affiliate links have been posting non stop this week how the 50,000 mile offers on the Citibank Platinum Select and CitiBusiness AA cards are changing on Monday 2/29. While I don’t doubt they will have to take down their affiliate links for the 50k offer, I’m rather confident there will still be 50k links floating around as Citibank is known to do. It is usually possible to find a working link for many Citibank offers after they supposedly expire so I am not concerned about the change in offers.

I personally don’t think anyone needs to rush out and apply for either card today but if you are risk-adverse and want to guarantee an easy 50,000 AA miles, then I guess go for it. However, I will not be nor I am recommending it to any of my clients. Here is a non-affiliate link for the personal card and business card if you must.

My Advice: Use Your 2016 American Express Airline Credit Now

Update: Credits are posting as expected. See this post for more details.

Earlier this week I posted one final reminder to use your 2015 American Express Airline credit whether it be for $200 (Platinum cards) or $100 (Premier Rewards Gold card). Now that 2016 is here you can now change your airline selection (if you so chose) but I am advocating to use the 2016 credits NOW if you plan to buy airline gift cards. I have always had success buying $50 Delta gift cards or $100 American Airlines gift cards but I would check the latest reports on the Flyertalk threads for United, Southwest and Alaska Airlines before selecting any of those airlines.

My argument is a simple one. It is widely known that airline gift cards are not eligible for the airline credit per the terms & conditions. However for years, the automated system American Express uses to determine what is eligible has nonetheless processed certain gift card purchases as being eligible – usually small amounts such as $50 (Delta) or $100 (Southwest/American) or if purchased a part of a registry (United). Right now, we know this is still working as the recent posts to Flyertalk demonstrate but there is no guarantee this will work for all of 2016. I have no inside knowledge to this but I do think there is a non-zero chance American Express changes this at some point in 2016. 

To show that I follow my own advice, I purchased these two $100 American Airline gift cards yesterday on 1/1 and I am hoping the credits post shortly after (I will update this post once it does).

Amex Pending Charges

To be clear, I have absolutely zero inside knowledge that this ‘trick’ to buy airline gift cards and have them be eligible for the airline credit will end soon. In fact, it probably won’t end this year as that chance is quite small (but not zero either) in my opinion. After the technical issue earlier this year in which people feared American Express had caught on to this trick, I’d rather be months earlier getting my airline gift cards reimbursed than a day late.