Richard Kerr: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm here to tell you, and this is not, "Richard, you got to do a hot take kind of deal."
Ed Pizza: Don't forget you owe us a little peak under the kimono before everybody else gets it, for the changes.
Richard Kerr: If you were flying Delta from Atlanta to New York, you would not get upgraded.
Ed Pizza: Are you sitting down? Oh wait, you are. I can see you.
Richard Kerr: Wait, I forgot. I forgot you can still see me. Got to put my shirt back on.
Ed Pizza: So, ugh.
Speaker 3: Climb aboard. This is the Miles To Go Podcast, your source for the latest in travel news, reviews and strategies you can't afford to miss. And now here's your host, travel expert and road warrior, Ed Pizza.
Ed Pizza: Hey, guys. Welcome back to the Miles To Go Podcast. Richard is back with me after a week on the West Coast and what sounds like a little bit of a spicy trip to a couple of properties that I would say are pretty aspirational. So we're going to get into that in just a second. But just want to go over what we're going to cover today. Richard, we are on Delta's PR radar. And I'll tell you a little bit about that in just a second.
Richard Kerr: Uh-oh.
Ed Pizza: We've got a voicemail from a listener about Delta's seat selection stuff. And if we get the time, we're going to try and cover the Choice acquisition of Radisson Hotels, this snazzy looking new Delta 747 credit card change fees, which were never coming back, but are now coming back for airlines, and a couple of credit card bonuses that are, they're definitely interesting.
So before we hear about your vacation, just wanted to read a review, because they said nice things about you again while you were gone.
Richard Kerr: Wow. I must be getting pretty.
Ed Pizza: No. You are not. I'm staring at you. I can see that. This one's from Loopy 1983. Says, "I've been listening to this podcast for over two years. Really appreciate the weekly updates and insights for points, miles, and travel hacks, tips, in general. Looking forward to each Wednesday when the new episode is uploaded. Really like the interaction between Ed and Richard." Hey, there you go. "Round table episodes with Julian and Summer are always fun. Truly appreciate the family travel content now that I have two kids and we're hoping to travel out again after they're both vaccinated. Thank you for talking me out of owning an RV."
Richard Kerr: Lot of people say that.
Ed Pizza: They do. You noticed that, don't you?
Richard Kerr: Yeah.
Ed Pizza: Richard's still very happy with his RV.
Richard Kerr: I am. I was actually looking at the amazing Carolina Pines RV park that has their own beach house, clubhouse, right on the beach. Beach house clubhouse on the beach. I'm still on West Coast time, man. And the floor, water park. They have everything. So probably heading back there this summer.
Ed Pizza: Didn't we look at that as one of the potential spots for us to family camp at?
Richard Kerr: I think so.
Ed Pizza: Yeah.
Richard Kerr: If you ever come all the way down. It was awesome, man. We really enjoyed it.
Ed Pizza: Yeah.
Richard Kerr: Just a small hiccup where the city of North Myrtle Beach happens to be suing them because none of the campers are following the rules for the beachfront clubhouse. But besides that, everything else seems to be going well there.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. Everything else sounds great. All right. So we actually do have a listener voicemail as well that we're going to get to. If you do want to leave us a voicemail or a text, you can do that at 571-293-6659. So I don't know, Richard? Do you want to answer the listener voicemail or do you need to get the Ventana Big Sur off your chest?
Richard Kerr: We got to jump into Ventana. We do.
Ed Pizza: All right. All right. So we'll come back to the voicemail, but you were very cryptic, both in our group text chat with Julian and Summer and on social media. I know there were great parts. I know there were bad parts. And I know breakfast wasn't great.
Richard Kerr: If you could get breakfast. Yeah, Emily and I were chatting about this on the flight, the long trans con home yesterday, about how do we review this place? Actually in the car ride too all the way back up to San Jose, which lovely airport. First time flying out of there instead of SFO. Love San Jose.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, it is nice.
Richard Kerr: And I asked Emily, who understands points and miles, but could quite frankly care less. However she reaps the benefits of it. Said, "Would you recommend people spend, knowing how many points it is, knowing that right now it is $3,000 cash per night or 40,000 up to 60,000 points per night. would you recommend people come to the Ventana Big Sur?" Her answer was, "If you're paying cash, absolutely not." Which I 100% agree with.
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm here to tell you, and this is not a, "Richard's got to do a hot take kind of deal." I came into it objectively. If a place lives up to the hype, I give it all the credit. If it doesn't, then it doesn't. Ventana is an amazing physical property. But by no means, is this a five star, bucket list, got to do it, amazing, 100% worth it, place to go.
The service, just not there. Like $3,000 a night? You can go to some really, really, top notch, amazing places. And I feel like you could stay somewhere else for much cheaper and get the benefit of Big Sur, which is the nature that surround yourself. They couldn't fill up a cup of coffee, man. Even after asking, even after getting up out of the seat, and going to ask for coffee, it just doesn't show up. Servers just disappear. It just became stressful in the restaurant. The service made the day stressful. And when Emily who is the most, even-keeled, nice, you know, man, when she's like, "Okay, I'm irritated. I want to leave right now." It's like, "You've done really messed up."
So the property itself, it's not new, by any means. If you sit down on the pool deck and put your feet in the water, like the pool deck is built out of this layered shell that comes up off your legs. It's so worn down that all the grouts like a half inch taller than the stone now. Again, amazing scenery. The hikes we did were fantastic. The best part of the property is actually the attached campground, which is also weirdly run, like you can book a campground on hyatt.com.
Ed Pizza: I had idea.
Richard Kerr: Yeah. Walking through there, the redwoods that are down in this valley below the property that you can easily hike to from your room were amazing. Scenery, fantastic. The drive down there, awesome. The state park right next door we went to and did. We spent several hours there doing hikes up to a river gorge and around the redwoods, which were just amazing. But the property is, man, I would call it a maybe 600 bucks a night would be fair? I don't know who is paying that much money for that service and that kind of deal. So I don't know, man. I'm not saying it was bad. I'm saying if you have a lot of points to burn, and you just want to burn them, then it's worth going there. But I don't know. What questions do you have? How does that strike you?
Ed Pizza: Well, I think it's a beautiful destination for starers. I don't mean Ventana Big Sur, but just that whole area is very beautiful. So I think, part of what you're paying obviously for is the zip code. But I'm curious, and I'm not trying to make excuses for the property. I've never been there.
Richard Kerr: No, no. Yeah.
Ed Pizza: Do you feel like, and I'll focus on just the breakfast for a second. Do you feel like the issues were endemic? Like this is the way it always is or did it feel like they just didn't have enough staff?
Richard Kerr: No. So in an interesting twist, Emily and I walked into a random tasting room in Carmel-by-the-Sea, which by the way is fantastic. Love that. Never been there before. That was amazing. Way better than Monterey. Don't go to Monterey, go to Carmel-by-the-Sea. We sat down in the tasting room, we started chit chatting. The very kind ladies behind the counter, it was just Emily and I in the tasting room were like, "So, where are you guys from? Where you're stay?" We're like, "Oh, from Atlanta. We just came from Ventana Big Sur. And the lady's eyes kind of lit up and she was like, "Ah. I was the guest relations manager there for years." And I was like, "Oh, really?"
So what had happened was, and the story we got from the very nice lady who ran guest relations. She's not currently and hasn't been for a couple years, she said. She said it is incredibly hard to get motivated staff out there because of the location. 50% of the staff actually live on location in the campground, which when we walked down there and kind of walked to the edge of the campground, there's like these cabins there where the staff live.
Ed Pizza: That's so bizarre. Makes sense though, because it's expensive as heck to live out there.
Richard Kerr: Yeah. I mean, and just to drive right now. If you've got to commute in from wherever they live, it's an hour drive and gas is seven bucks a gallon out there on Highway One.
Ed Pizza: Yeah.
Richard Kerr: I told her about the service failures. Again, mainly related to the restaurant, which is unfortunately the only restaurant there. You can either eat in room or you can eat this one restaurant. So if the one restaurant's bad, you're kind of screwed. There's nowhere else to go.
Ed Pizza: Yeah.
Richard Kerr: She said, "It's a very generational staff." What she said when she first got there was awesome. Like the head housekeeping staff were married and everybody had pride in things going on. But she said over the years, as those generations phased out, it's just so incredibly hard to get motivated staff.
And I asked things like, "Hey, part of this, it's inclusive, including gratuity." You don't tip on anything. Gratuity's included. I said, "Is that the staff knows whether they do a good or bad job they're getting paid the same, so they're not motivated?"
Ed Pizza: Right.
Richard Kerr: She went, "Kind of, but my problem was, is just you're way out there and getting staff that take pride to be motivated at the level," that I'm saying at $3,000 a night, she's like, "You just can't do it." So they had plenty of staff running around. They would just literally disappear, man. You would sit there for 15 minutes and have to get up and go ask for, "Can we get some coffee and tea over here?" Or like get up again, "Can I get a fork for this yogurt? I mean, can I get a spoon?" Because I'm eating yogurt with a fork for the second morning in a row. "Can somebody come take our order?" On the second night in the dinner we gave up on ordering dessert and just left because nobody ever came back.
Ed Pizza: So I wonder, as you know, I spent a long time in the hotel industry.
Richard Kerr: Yeah.
Ed Pizza: And one of the things that I saw at resort properties similar to Big Sur was that a lot of them when "gratuity is included," the hotel starts taking a piece of the service charge. And so the staff doesn't get the typical full tip, if you will. They end up with something that's more akin to like 10 or 12% instead of 18 or 20%. And so I wonder if that's also part of what's in play here is that the property has chosen to carve some of this service charge back from a profitability standpoint.
Richard Kerr: Hope not. They say 15% gratuity of all the checks is given to the staff. So I hope it's actually 15%. Now some would argue that's not enough. And when you finish every meal, they do give you a bill to sign. It doesn't have a total on it, but you have to sign your name and room number and sign it and that's your opportunity to give additional tip. And if service had warranted it, I would have no problem giving, knowing that they only got 15%, and there weren't prices on the menu except for drinks. So you don't know exactly. But if had had amazing service, I would've been like, "Hey, here's another 20, 30 bucks for dinner. It was awesome."
Ed Pizza: Right. Right.
Richard Kerr: Nothing, man. And I mean, so the room was great. We got upgraded to what they called a suite. It's not a true suite, but it's a very nice room, fireplace, private hot tub. When we checked in, the lady said you'll have amazing ocean views. And I was like that's kind of weird because this property's kind of really far back up on the hill. You have no ocean views from the room. So I don't want people to say, just the restaurant, no. Nope, they have to fix that. No way should you ever pay cash for this property ever, ever, ever. If you have points to burn, it's a cool place to go check out. That's kind of like what it is. Oh, and the clothing optional pool was also a nice, I had read that in a review, but forgot about it until I walked in and saw a fellow.
And Emily did not know that and she walked in and she was like, "What is going on?" And I was like, "Oh, okay. This is." But also at check in, you would think-
Ed Pizza: How could you leave that detail out?
Richard Kerr: There's no signs at the pool. There's no signs at the gate. There's no nothing. And at check in, you figure they'd be like, "Hey, the mountain pool is clothing optional." Nobody said anything. So if I had not read that interview before, I would've been like, "Hold on, what?"
Which again, didn't bother, I'm not a prude or anything. I was just like, "Oh, I forgot about that." That would've been something I would've told guests checking in because you might have some people who aren't California mindset that'd be like, "Wait, what? Should this be happening?"
So I don't know, man. The time in California was cool. Again, you're going out there for the nature. You're not going out there for the service or the property.
Ed Pizza: Yeah.
Richard Kerr: And I put some of this vaguely and not so vaguely about breakfast and the service and the restaurant up on Instagram stories. Lots of messages from people saying, "Oh man, when I was there before the pandemic it was awesome. When I was there in 2019, it was fantastic. They would not missed a beat." And I'm not being picky, folks. I literally could not get a cup, Emily could not get a cup of coffee at the $3,000 a night breakfast restaurant.
And that wasn't like the only thing. So, yeah, I don't know, man. Really glad we went, but definitely one and done for us.
Ed Pizza: Yeah.
Richard Kerr: So I don't know, Ventana. You got to figure it out.
Ed Pizza: Little disappointing. It was probably a one and done for you anyway, but it'd be great to have the positive story out of it. Unfortunately, I think it's so hard to tell with things like that, especially when you got comments that it was great before the pandemic. It's been on our radar, but always on the fringes. We'll take the kids out there to do the coast at some point, but I wouldn't say it's super high on my list just because it's a little troublesome to get to from the East Coast.
Richard Kerr: From anywhere.
Ed Pizza: But definitely, to your point, San Jose is a great airport to go out of as opposed to San Fran.
So, all right. So let's pivot to this voicemail from a listener who did not leave their name, but he's asking about those Delta block seats that we talked about a few weeks ago. So take a listen.
Speaker 4: Hey, guys. Just wanted to say first I love the podcast. I think you do an amazing job of balancing entertaining banter with really informative insights and helpful tips and good reviews. I wanted to find out if you had ever figured out why Delta has some seats on their seat maps that end up getting x'ed out close to the flight. I know along quite a few episodes ago, you were talking about trying to figure out the answer to that. And I try to listen to every episode, maybe I missed it somewhere along the way, but yeah, wanted to see if you ever figured out what was going on with that.
Ed Pizza: All right. So I wish we had a perfect answer for this. So the answer that we got from Delta, which I thought we covered, but maybe we didn't, was that they're now progressively booking more, or sorry, holding more seats for families. So they're blocking these seats for families that need to sit together so they can work things out either over the phone and via chat, at the airport at the gate. So that's the official answer from Delta on why they're blocking more and why they're in some random spots.
Richard Kerr: Yeah. We briefly talked about that. Yeah.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. You and I have both had experiences since we heard that from Delta where that wasn't the case. You had it with, gosh, where were you guys going? Was it the Orlando trip? There was some trip where you couldn't get you and Thomas together.
Richard Kerr: Yeah, down to Orlando. Yeah.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, yeah. So you had that. I have a trip coming up to Iceland and so we're going from Dulles to JFK and the entire Comfort Plus section of the plane is blocked. Most of First Class is blocked, but not occupied seats. And I spoke with someone and they're like, "Oh, maybe the flight's oversold. Maybe they downsized the aircraft." And I could be wrong, but flights between Dulles and JFK typically aren't narrow bodies anyway. They're almost always RJs. So the official answer from Delta is family seats, but I think you and I have both seen inconsistent application.
Richard Kerr: No, there's something else.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, yeah.
Richard Kerr: Something else going on. It was the same. We flew a 767 to San Francisco and there was several obscure seats in the 767 blocks not occupied that, if a family was sitting, and that flight was so empty on a Saturday morning, not at departure because of all the non-res, but before departure that you could have picked any seats together if you were a family. And then a 737 yesterday home from San Jose, which by the way, man, those Delta 737s, that's not comfortable First Class seat for a trans con. Anyway. Emily and I were both very uncomfortable yesterday for First Class seat. But we were in Economy before and there were just obscure seats with the X in it. So I would really love to know, like a random middle seat and then a random aisle seat.
Ed Pizza: Yeah.
Richard Kerr: And then random Comfort Plus seats. I'm like, "I really would love to know what's going on here. Why are these seats blocked out?"
Ed Pizza: Yeah, no. I don't quite get it. But, anyway, we love those voicemails. We mentioned earlier you can voicemail or text us, 571-293-6659. Richard's on social media, @KerrPoints. I'm @pizzainmotion. You can also email us, firstname.lastname@example.org, which so many of you do, with questions. We do have a bunch more. I'm doing my best to answer all those in the background for folks. And we'll continue to try and squeeze them into the episodes as well.
Richard, I didn't forward this to you, but we are on Delta's PR radar because I heard from somebody at Delta Vacations who had heard about my problems with the trip to Iceland that you and I discussed about the Delta Vacation screwing up my rental car.
Richard Kerr: Yeah.
Ed Pizza: And to my knowledge, I never wrote about it. So somebody's listening to the podcast over there. And they said they want to come on the show, probably in August, because they have some changes coming up to the platform that they feel are pretty customer friendly.
Richard Kerr: Cool.
Ed Pizza: So they were just going to talk to me, and I'm like, "Well, we can talk to you on the show. So why don't you guys come on the pod?" So they are working on a date for us to come on the pod and talk about changes to the Delta Vacations platform, which may or may not change my opinion. Right now, I mean, I had to book a couple more. I had to book again for a Disney trip that we have coming up this summer to try to use up the rest of that credit. And I was on the phone for over two hours, just trying to book a domestic hotel at Disney World. Nothing fancy, just trying to book two domestic hotel stays at Disney World and it was well over two hours to do it.
Richard Kerr: Domestic hotel stay. Why are you using that?
Ed Pizza: Just something simple. Like, "Hey, I just want to book a regular hotel at Disney. I don't want to do anything fancy."
Richard Kerr: The use of word domestic there was throwing me off.
Ed Pizza: Sorry. It was more like-
Richard Kerr: I was like, "What is he talking about?"
Ed Pizza: Well, look at it this way. I guess if you weren't on the phone when I was trying to book the Iceland stuff and I was trying to explain to someone that Reykjavík isn't the only town in Iceland, and I wanted to know if they had any other properties.
Richard Kerr: What?
Ed Pizza: Yeah. So, I was definitely struggling to get through. A couple times they told me the hotel wasn't available and I'm like, "Well, look, I'm looking on deltavacations.com and I can see it, and I'm on Disney's website and I can see it, so I'm not sure what the issue is." "Good news. We fixed our system and we found the hotel again." So there were definitely some struggles there. I would say really glad I got to use up my credit, but without changes, I don't know that I would be hitting that well again anytime soon.
Richard Kerr: Yeah, or without that deal. I understand. Just again, it's funny. Do you have a source of information you go to for what, how do I say this? What normal people or how they book travel? When I say normal people, I mean not over the top travel nerds like us, but I go to the playground with Thomas and Mary that's literally across the street and all the neighborhood moms and dads are there. They all know what I do. And they routinely ask me about travel and I ask them what to do. Lots of people book the packages, right. They think it's like, the thing to do is to get your flight and your hotel and everything together. And I often tell them like, "This is why I never do that."
Ed Pizza: Right.
Richard Kerr: But do you have like a source of intel for like this? I call it my playground checks. I ask people like, "Hey, have you guys seen this news? Is this even on your radar?" And they're like, "Absolutely not. And how do you book travel," and all that stuff? And I think people like the perceived value of something like Delta Vacations and they think, "Oh, if I book it all together, I'm getting this insanely better price because of some magic or something." And I'm like, "Oh, I just don't do that. And I don't think you are getting," from time to time, you can, but.
Ed Pizza: From time to time. And I think it's really in key destinations like Vegas or Disney or things like that. But, at least from my experience, it has to be a place that has just a boatload of hotel inventory to really get some sort of a deal because that's where they're pulling the savings from.
Richard Kerr: Yeah, definitely not from the flight.
Ed Pizza: No, not from the flight. So it's like, can they get cheap cars? Can they get cheap hotels? And package those together and split the savings with you? But to your point, I don't know where that intel comes from either because I hear that from a number of folks as well. And I just wonder where the narrative comes from. But that being said, I mean, most of the folks that I talk to at the "metaphorical playground," they don't understand the world of points and miles that much either. I mean, our son Charlie had an incredible fifth grade teacher. And so we wanted to do something for her at the end of the school year. And so we gave her some points and miles because they have kids and they want to travel and stuff like that.
And like, she was just like, "Well, I would never ask for anything." "Well, you didn't ask for anything. We just wanted to give you a gift to say thank you. You've been so great to our son." And she's like, "Okay, well what do I do?" And I was like, "Well, do you have anything now that you earn credit or earn points and miles off of?" And she's like, "No, I just have a cash back card." And she's like, "I don't really understand how to use points." Like it wasn't part of her lexicon. And I hear that a lot from folks who they generally just book travel and their credit cards do other things for them.
So I think that's not to sound overly esoteric, but I think that's why I love us doing the pod on a weekly basis because I think typically we're educating people on ways to do it better, even if they don't do all the crazy hacking stuff we do. If they just have one better credit card in their wallet, they're going to be miles ahead of where they were before.
Richard Kerr: All right. So I'm taking notes here. I have to bribe teachers with points and miles in order to, okay, got it.
Ed Pizza: I'll give you the full playbook offline.
Richard Kerr: Yeah, now the fifth grade teacher went to the sixth grade teachers and is like, "Treat this kid great. You're going to get a vacation out of it."
Ed Pizza: I will say our tutor for Charlie is one of the best traveled tutors in the world. She tutored Charlie for three years and at the end of every school year we sent them somewhere. They went to Europe, they went to Asia, because she was helping our child work through his disability. So she has been so instrumental in our son's growth. And so giving them the gift of travel, man, it's my favorite gift to give.
Richard Kerr: Yeah. While we were in California, my sister came and watched the kids for half the time we were gone, which is great to have aunt, niece, and nephew time and they love it. But I usually pay my sister and like, "Hey, come watch the kids. And then I'll book you a flight to wherever your next trip is."
Ed Pizza: Right.
Richard Kerr: She's a high school teacher so she has the summers off obviously and usually spends the summers traveling and usually one of those trips is on my points and miles in exchange for watching the kids so that we can take off and go somewhere.
Ed Pizza: I like it. Can I give her some points and miles to come watch my kids?
Richard Kerr: Probably. Yeah. And she's very qualified as a now teacher for a decade.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. All right. Let's look after that after the show. All right. Let's try and churn through these topics, because I am curious on your opinion a couple things we didn't talk about in pre-show. So first off, Choice is buying Radisson America. Just the North American portfolio properties. And it'd be interesting to see whether or not, so for folks who might not know Radisson, based on some problems with the US government, split into multiple companies probably about 18 months ago, two years ago, something like that. So it was mostly seamless to the customer. You could transfer points back and forth between the two divisions. But since Choice is just buying the Americas, I'm wondering if the transfer option to everything else is going to go away, which at least for me would be a pretty big loss for the Radisson portfolio.
Richard Kerr: But how many Radisson stays do you have in the last five years?
Ed Pizza: Oh, I mean it's less than five, for sure.
Richard Kerr: Yeah.
Ed Pizza: But none of them were in the US.
Richard Kerr: Right. I've been holding on to well over 100,000 Radisson points for years now because since I haven't lived in Japan, I have not used the things. And if I did go back to Europe or Asia, I could find other programs to stay. Like Radisson Blues are nice, but besides that, eh. So I think this is great. If Radisson points become Choice points, which can be useful here in the US or North America from time to time, I think it's a great deal. I do not think there's any way that one Radisson point becomes one Choice point. The valuation differential is just way too big, but I see it as a positive thing. And if that means I lose access to the Radisson not America's program, then so be it. I'm good with that. It's not going to be any skin off my back.
Ed Pizza: That's fair. I mean, the stays I had in Europe, I wouldn't say were overwhelming and super awesome, aspirational properties, but I got some incredible value out of Radisson points at airport properties or.
Richard Kerr: Yeah.
Ed Pizza: Cities under properties in Europe that were, I wouldn't say top notch properties, but really nice hotels. And the points went a long way. So that was my traditional value out of the Radisson program.
Are you sitting down? Oh wait, you are, I can see you.
Richard Kerr: Oh, wait, I forgot you can still see me here. Here, I'll put my shirt back on.
Ed Pizza: Ugh. So I don't know if you heard, but those change fees the airlines said were never coming back. Oddly they're coming back. Please tell me, are you shocked?
Richard Kerr: I'm stupefied.
Ed Pizza: You're stunned, aren't you?
Richard Kerr: I cannot believe it.
Ed Pizza: Can you believe it?
Richard Kerr: I can. So this is coming out of American, which says, "expect many international affairs for trips originating outside the United States to come with change fees effective 8 June. Change fee to select markets."
Ed Pizza: Well, and I wondered too, because this note that Gary has, we'll link do with the show notes, The View From The Wing, it doesn't specifically address award flights, but there used to be change fees on award flights back in the olden days of 2020.
Richard Kerr: Yeah. I was about to say, how old are you going?
Ed Pizza: Yeah. And the issue here is, so like the note says for flights originating outside of the US from select destinations. And so, most people say, "Well, I live in the US. It's not a big deal." Except a lot of times we book one way award flights and especially open jaws, stuff like that. That's not that uncommon. And I think more than just you and I do that. I think a lot of regular people book one way awards. So if change fees start popping up again, that is meaningful for people who have a stash of advantage miles.
Richard Kerr: Yeah. Like me. And like international travel opening up and no more testing requirement and now I can come back, but I hope it doesn't apply to award tickets. And I hope as Executive Platinum at least that I would get a free re-deposit and then just book the next thing that I need to book, rather than having to pay a change fee.
I mean the no change fee thing has been clutch. We just did it. We were supposed to come home today, which is Friday the 17th as of recording, but we got to Monterey, did Carmel-by-the-Sea, did an evening in Monterey. And we were like, "This is not worth being gone for an entire other day and staying another night at the lovely Holiday Inn Express Monterey," which don't do it. And the no change fee for Delta was awesome. The fair difference was zero because unfortunately I paid so much for our original ticket because that's what domestic tickets cost that the last minute change to the day before didn't cost us anything. And I was like, "Hey, we can go home a day early, for no change." No change fee, no fare difference. It was awesome and we did that. So man, it would stink if this goes away. But what's Gary's quote, "Everything's permanent in the airline industry until they say it's not," something like that.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, and the fact that you used if in that sentence is a little personally disappointing to me because you know the change fees are coming back. It's just a matter of when.
Richard Kerr: Yeah.
Ed Pizza: Just a matter of how long.
Richard Kerr: It's going to open up a whole other can of worms, but how many billions did we give to them, and as taxpayers, and now they just turn right back around and put the old screw back in you?
Ed Pizza: Well, and to be clear, it's not every airline.
Richard Kerr: No.
Ed Pizza: Because Want To Get Away Plus fares, which are getting some criticism from folks in the industry, is a new fare that Southwest released. And I understand that these might not be the most compelling things in the world, but one of the things that they offer as Part Of Want To Get Away Plus is if you buy a ticket on Southwest today and purchase a Want To Get Away Plus fare, and then can't fly, you can transfer that credit to me. Which has always been, for as long as I've flown, I know it didn't use to be this way, but for as long as I've flown, that's always been a bright red line. If you've got a credit in your name, it's yours to burn up.
United used to allow you to use the leftover of a certificate after you use it for yourself for someone else. But the hard, fast rule has always been, you pay for the ticket, it's yours, and you can't transfer to someone else, for the last 30 years. So I don't think this is a matter of they have to do this. Southwest, I think is proving you can go the other way. But I don't expect American, Delta, or United to follow Southwest.
Richard Kerr: No, I don't think so. There are apparently some nuances. Again, when we had the babies we flew Southwest all the time for a lot of reasons, but we just have not flown Southwest recently. But I've been seeing a lot of, there are apparently a lot of not hidden features, but once you dig in through the Want To Get Away Plus fare, some really cool things that you can do as far as flight changes. I'll allude to that. So people dig in if you want to know more, but the notes I've read, I'm like, "Okay, time I got to pay attention to this."
Ed Pizza: Yeah, for sure. All right. So we'll leave the Delta card to the very end just in case we have time to talk about the new bonus there, but I am curious, because we talked and said we were going to talk about this on the show, but I didn't even ask your opinion ahead of time. So the American Airlines Advantage Platinum MasterCard now has a 75,000 mile signup bonus, and that's after 3,500 in purchases. We'll link to the Miles to Memories story that I saw on this. I'm curious, given everything that's out there in the landscape and sort of setting aside the Chase 524 thing, because most of the folks I talked to who are listeners are all like, "Well, what's that Chase 524 thing you guys talk about?" What's your general opinion on someone applying for this card and then continuing to spend on it after they get the bonus?
Richard Kerr: Yeah. If you want loyalty points, then you got to have a co-branded card. So you want a low annual fee card, you can go for it. Nice sign up bonus. The only other thing I would tell you that might trump it is if you can get one of those Barclays 80,000 after your first purchase bonus offers and then spend on that card to get your loyalty points. A little bit better deal there. But otherwise it's nice. And I'm actually looking last night again on the flight yesterday, when you got four hours and 15 minutes to kind of sit there and chill. I was gauging where I'm at on status and looking at my loyalty points for American because I just bought a new mattress and bed through their shopping portal at 10X points.
Ed Pizza: Ooh. Pricey.
Richard Kerr: And the 12,000 loyalty points posted yesterday. And I was like, "All right, where does this put me at for the year?" I'm like basically a little bit under halfway there to Executive Platinum, which makes sense for June. I was like, "Okay, I don't have an AA Co branded card right now. Do I want to get that and put our regular household spend on it to get loyalty points?" What's the game plan here?" And I think I'm going to, because I have, even after a putting a massive amount of points on the line for our trip to California last week, or this week, I still haven't put a dent in what we have stored up, man. I spent a lot of points last week, but so I was like, "Do I need to keep putting daily spend on Ultimate Rewards or Amex point card? No, I think I can afford to get a AA Co branded card and put couple months of household spend on this just to get me right on track to stay on pace for Executive Platinum for next year.
So I think we're going to go for one of these cards and it's not a bad one to do.
Ed Pizza: Yeah, I'm probably a little bit less excited about it than you are. I think because of the size of the signup bonus, I think it does work for everyday folks, just because the amount of time it would take someone to accumulate 75,000 miles is quite a while, but I still don't love the spending bonuses on the card. Two points per dollar or two miles per dollar on restaurants and gas stations. It's okay. Not great. So you're giving up some of the spend there in order to earn a potential path to Advantage status, but you're also obviously getting a 75,000 mile signup bonus to help sort of boost your earnings over the first couple years. First check bag free. If you happen to get to $20,000 in spend on the card in a year, you get $125 flight discount. So I definitely think there's a path, for sure, at 75,000 miles.
I would say, mark this on the calendar, folks, two years from now. It wouldn't surprise me just given the way things are going that this sort of card needs to make the value prop more exciting for folks on an ongoing basis. So it wouldn't surprise me if they tried to tweak the categories. I think ultimately the reason why they haven't yet is because the Barclay card version of American Airlines cards is actually weaker in spend than this one. But there's so many other cards out there that are more valuable and flexible currency standpoint that I have to think at some point these folks try to step up their game.
Richard Kerr: Well, see, in my mind, American miles now are significantly more valuable than both Delta and United miles. They just continue to, even though there's not always a great deal, they continue to hold their weight. And whatever you got to do to get some American miles, we take a look at.
Ed Pizza: All right. You heard it straight from Kerr's mouth. All right, well last story. The Delta 747 card. So you pointed out in pre-show that I wasn't even aware of what the annual fee was. I don't know that you were either. I think we're both a little surprised, but the Delta Sky Miles Reserve card, which is now a $550 annual fee, not a 450. We're going to talk a little bit about that next week when we talk about premium credit cards. But if you have that Sky Miles Reserve card, you can now request a new card without changing your number, that will be made partly from a retired 747 with one of the most badass card designs I've seen in quite a while. You seemed a little bit more lukewarm on this than I was.
Richard Kerr: Well, walking through the Atlanta airport yesterday and now seeing the fast track line waits for Delta 360 and Diamond Medallions to get in the club and then seeing everybody else waiting in line to get in the club. What do you do, Delta? You release an updated version that gives lounge access to get everybody excited. That'll fix the problem, ladies and gentlemen. And then you see everybody in our space going nuts over it because, "Hey, I'm an av geek. Having a card made out of an old Delta 747 skin," by the way, it's only 25% of the card made out of that, "is cool."
Ed Pizza: Why you got to rain on my parade?
Richard Kerr: It's cool.
Ed Pizza: Like who cares what percentage it is?
Richard Kerr: But so far in the amazing coverage of this new card you can sign up for on every site out there nobody's mentioned, "Oh, by the way, if you're really excited about the lounge access, I hope you're getting to the airport an hour early to wait in line to get in the Sky Club where you can't get a seat." Like, "Yay, good job, Delta and Amex. Way to go." So there you go, man. There's my hot take on it.
Ed Pizza: And we'll talk a little bit more about this next week, but you mentioned the offer and it is up to 100,000 miles bonus offer for signing up for the card. So it's another one of those cards. It's a tough one, I think to hold, unless you fly a bunch on Delta. You do get nice benefits, but from a spending standpoint, you just don't have the bonus categories.
Richard Kerr: No.
Ed Pizza: For that card.
Richard Kerr: You don't. And there's also, so I've found the companion passes for this to be almost impossible to use this year. Anytime you search it's a required fare class, ladies and gentlemen, in order to get.
Ed Pizza: Right.
Richard Kerr: And it's a more expensive fare class. And anytime I go through a little portal to search, it's sold out, and I can't use it. Because I would've loved to use a companion pass to San Francisco and back for my wife, but sold out, couldn't use it.
And then you supposedly have higher upgrade status if you have the Reserve card, it gives you a leg up on the upgrade list? Never seen any tangible evidence of that being.
Ed Pizza: Wait, do people still get upgraded without using a cert?
Richard Kerr: No, they don't.
Ed Pizza: Right, okay. So then, yeah.
Richard Kerr: That's the other part with Delta. They are so good at selling the in-app offers. Nobody cleared on the flight yesterday from San Jose back to Atlanta. And the day before there were six empty F seats. When I looked at the upgrade list yesterday, because I was like, "All right, how many people are taking this offer in app to upgrade with either cash or miles?" I guess everybody did, because nobody on the upgrade list. And there were like 40 people on the upgrade list cleared. So if you're Delta Elite, you don't get upgraded, unless you pay for that or use a certificate.
Ed Pizza: No Elites are getting upgraded right now, to be clear. I mean, it's not happening on United. American, when I look at flights, I see First Class cabins that are sold out days in advance.
Richard Kerr: Unless you're flying Atlanta to New York, I am batting 100% on American
Ed Pizza: Congratulations.
Richard Kerr: And you would bat 0% if you're flying Delta from Atlanta to New York. You would not get upgraded. But yeah, that's me. That's the problem with this card is like the companion pass doesn't deliver. There's no tangible evidence that you're going to get a better chance of upgrade because of it. And then congrats, you have lounge access to the most stressful thing in the world right now and you got to wait in line to get in the lounge. So enjoy spending your $550 on a card that's only 25% made out of what they claim it to be. There you go, man.
Ed Pizza: Yeah. All right. Well, that's a full wrap on this week's episode. I've got some summer travel coming up, so we're actually going to record another episode that's going to be a little bit evergreen. So if there is big breaking news while I'm gone, don't think that Richard and I were just ignoring it, but I'll be in Iceland and it'll be a little tough to record here and there. So we're going to be talking about premium credit cards and trying to compare them based on a listener question that we got a while ago.
You got any work travel coming up there, Mr. Kerr, while I'm gone?
Richard Kerr: When do you leave? When are you going? You going next week?
Ed Pizza: Next week. Next week.
Richard Kerr: No, I'm supposed to be home next week. But we have a lot of great things cooking over at Built Reward so I might have to go to New York next week or it might be the week after, but one of the next two weeks I'll be up there.
Ed Pizza: Don't forget you owe us a little peak under the kimono before everybody else gets it, for the changes.
Richard Kerr: Yeah. Only Emily gets to get a peak under my kimono, but I'll give everybody else a heads up on what we got cooking. Yeah, really good stuff.
Ed Pizza: I won't do it. I won't even begin to comment on the picture that your wife sent us from Ventana Big Sur.
Richard Kerr: I didn't know she was doing that, by the way.
Ed Pizza: I'm still a little scarred by that.
Richard Kerr: You should consider yourself lucky, my friend.
Ed Pizza: Listener question. Are there any credit cards out there that pay for therapy? Because I could use a little bonus points right now.
Richard Kerr: That would be a great bonus category, man. They should do that.
Ed Pizza: All right, man. Well, until we record again, safe travels out there. I'll be thinking about you as we head off to Iceland next week.
Richard Kerr: Aw.
Ed Pizza: And, yeah, not that picture though. Good God. Thanks, everyone, for tuning in. Thanks for Jeremiah for making us sound so good, even though we don't look so good. Until we upload again, we've got miles to go.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
If you enjoy the podcast, I hope you’ll take a moment to leave us a rating. That helps us grow our audience!
You can text us at (571) 293-6659. Listen for your question on a future show!
Hope you enjoy the show!