Got VIP Status?


You spent 10’s of thousands of $$’s on Expedia and got Elite Status. Got Platinum Status on Continental. Whats it worth – Bupkis. Diddly sqat. Or less.

For example – upgrades to business class coming from Israel. A friend of mine (unnamed, but you will see him suffering in economy tonight all the way to the West Coast) has piles of miles and the highest VIP status that Continental offers. He called up the airline, asking for an upgrade. Sorry, no complimentary upgrades trans-atlantic. He was now ready to spend his miles on an upgrade. Sorry, none available. As soon as he started talking about buying a business class ticket, there was lots of space.

So, tonight, the plane leaves with loads of business class seats wide open and our friend and VIP Continental Flyer with miles to burn in the back like a sardine.

As far as Expedia elite – I get a special 800 number with no wait time, but they usually can’t do what you want when you get through.

Whats the point? We all know the miles are difficult to use. They know that we know that. So, they try to market their programs by giving us VIP status. With the exception of ElAl, it is not worth much.

This may be the only way to really get VIP service:


The OTA’s (online travel agents) are featured in some other posts. Here we review the value of an OTA vs a supplier (Delta) or meta-search (Kayak), and Seatguru is a great tool for selecting seats – owned by Expedia.

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Free Ticket for your Kids 18th Birthday

It turns out my readers like the free stuff – so here is our best one yet:

Your kid turns 18 and he or she is headed to the army or whatever. Time for a free trip. Step by step process would make Abbie Hoffman proud.

Step 1: Sign up for American Airlines (should have done that 18 years ago)

Step 2: Apply for a Citibank-AAdvantage Visa Card here. First year free. Spend $750 and get 25,750 immediate points. Cancel right away.

Step 3: Apply for a fidelity account and fund with $10,000 (can withdraw after 6 months), That gets you 15,000 miles.

Step 4: Now you have 40,000 miles good for a trip anywhere in Europe for the kid.

Option 2: Smaller investment of $2500 gets you 5,000 miles. That puts you 4250 miles short of the 35,000 level free ticket to India (bit of Ashram before Yeshiva?). You will need to scrounge for those missing miles or spend more on Visa.

Disclaimer: This offer is not valid for my kid, who turns 18 this summer.

Social Responsibility Statement: Time to get an absentee ballot for your kid to vote in this years US presidential election. Conventional wisdoms suggests registering in Florida. Elections are always fun there.

If you read this blog for the frequent flyer info – there are some good posts about Turkish Airlines and its partnership with American, free travel on British, Continental leaving Delta for United and the Star Alliance, yet another AA change, another post on ELAL and more. And, representing days of research – a guide to free tickets on all the airlines on the TLV – JFK route.

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Good Things about ElAl Gold and Platinum (for serious flyers only)

In the interest of fairness and zionism – I decided to write a post about what is good about accruing miles on ElAl. This is not to be confused with actually flying ElAl. I love flying ElAl.

But, you can fly ElAl and get much more valuable miles on other airlines. So, today I decided to ask some hardcore ELAL frequent flyers – WHY?

And the answer:

  • Check-in with no lines,
  • Dedicated reservation agents who can work miracles,
  • Use of ElAl (and some affiliate) lounges,
  • Pre-assigned seats.

All that even for economy class. Upgrades are possible, but hard to get since there seem to be lots of Gold and Platinum people out there.
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Frequent Flyer Guide to US (even for this summer)

With the rising cost of airfare – there is only one real solution to vacation travel to the US – use free tickets. Since I know many readers of this blog have 100,000’s of miles sitting in their accounts, I decided to summarize the options available for using them for trips to the States (including all the way to Hawaii!).

And, since I am a “method blogger”. I decided to report my emotions, memories and experiences of the search process. I called all the relevant airlines to find free tickets to the states. I challenged myself by trying to find space for travel this summer. And I did.

So, use the following to plan your free trip. Remember the four universal rules of booking free tickets:

1. Best to book exactly 330 days in advance.

2. Must be flexible with dates

3. Be creative with routings

4. Don’t call ElAl

If you read this blog for the frequent flyer info – there are some good posts about Turkish Airlines and its partnership with American, how to get a free ticket just by signing up for a Visa card, free travel on British, Continental leaving Delta for United and the Star Alliance, yet another AA change, another post on ELAL and more.

Mileage Program

Airlines (leaving Israel)

Miles for Economy Ticket

Summer Availability

Total Price

US Destinations

ElAl
Nosea
Matmid

ElAl

1400 points (1800 LA)

Fuggetaboutit

$499

New York, Miami, LA

United
Mileage Plus

Air Canada,
Austrian. Lufthanasa, SAS,
Swiss, TAP, Turkish (Star Alliance
Partners)

75,000

Limited

$94

All US
(includes Hawaii and Alaska)

American Airlines AAdvantage

American Airlines, ElAl, British,
Iberia, Malev, Royal Jordanian (Star Alliance)

75,000 (AA award) or 90,000 (One World Award) or 40,000 if
you can get yourself to Europe in the winter
(even Cyprus)

Nope, even if you are willing to fly via Amman. No advanced level.

$76

All US

on AA award. 14,000 actual miles on OneWorld
award.

Delta SkyMiles

Delta, Air France,
Alitalia, Czech, KLM,
Continental

80,000 (90,000 on Continental)

Yes – only at Skysaver level
(110,000 to 160,000 miles)

$35

Mainland US

Continental OnePass

Same as Delta

70,000

Yes – only at EasyPass level
(140,000 miles)

$33

Mainland US

Israir

NO PROGRAM


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Free Mobile Phone in US

Probably most TLV2JFK readers live a double life – besides taking the kids to school in Ranana – offices in the city, house in Teaneck, family in Queens and of course, a US Cellphone. I don’t – my office, house, family and bank account are all in Ranana. But I needed a phone for a short trip to the states. Cellcom said “Take your good old Israel phone”. They did not really tell me that it will cost more than the flight (I used AA miles!). Option 2 – ask a friend. No luck.

I ended up buying a Virgin Atlantic phone (thanks, Richard Branson) at Radio Shack for $10. Later I saw it at CVS, 7-11, all over the place. Bought time on their website for 10 cents a minute and for $30 I had a phone for 2 weeks. I looked on their site and the deal is even better – free when you buy $15 worth of minutes.

You get your own dedicated number and if you use a service like United World Telecom, you can have calls forwarded either to your US phone or Israel phone, depending on where you are.

Golly, this is even better than working for IDT!


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American Airlines will lose your bags for only a dime.

American Airlines is now charging $15 for the FIRST BAG checked. Multiply by their 0.75% lost bag rate and you get that American Airlines will lose you bag for only 10 cents. Seriously, this will NOT apply to international flights and to elite status members. You get to lose your bags for free.

Peder Zane of the Raleigh News & Observer was kind enough to suggest a hilarious video.

Thanks to Howie Klein for this picture.


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Los Angeles Kosher Dining – not just pizza!

I am not a blogger. People actually PAY ME to write. But since I really love this blog – I decided to contibute. For free. Not even for a corned beef on rye! And I decided to write about two things I really like – a nice kosher meal and Los Angeles. Here goes – my first blog post!! –

In LA on business and looking for a good kosher place to take a client out to eat or to catch a bite between meetings? When it comes to restaurants, LA is truly the place to beat! There’s plenty of variety, the food quality is quite high, and the prices tend to be somewhat cheaper than on the East Coast. Most kosher places in Los Angeles are either near La Brea Boulevard or in the Pico/Robertson area of the city.

There are plenty other great meat restaurants in LA, but these three take the proverbial cake:

For gourmet fleishig meals you can’t top Pat’s, on Pico Blvd. With a delightful ambience and a full menu of high-quality delectable dishes, it’s impossible to find someone who leaves Pat’s disappointed. Essentially regarded as the top kosher restaurant in the city, letting a local yokel know that you’re eating at Pat’s never fails to elicit a “psh!” reaction.

For some less expensive, hearty, good old fashioned Jewish food, you HAVE to stop by for a meal at Pico Kosher Deli (PKD). An LA mainstay for decades now, many in the local Jewish community would say that you haven’t had good kosher food in the city until you’ve stopped by PKD. The sandwiches (like a lot of the clientele) are thick and meaty, and there’s nothing that can make you feel more at home than a Deli Burger with fries and a bowl of chicken matza ball soup.

Other great fleishig food can be found on the other side of town too at Elite Cuisine, on the corner of La Brea and Beverly Blvd. Elite also features a great Chinese menu, as well as dinner specials on Monday and Tuesday nights.

If you’re more in the mood for milchigs, then Milk & Honey is a top-notch place to do some dairy dining. Milk & Honey offers up a wide-array of tasty pasta and fish dishes, as well as a variety of yummy salads and desserts to begin and end your meals with. White wine goes perfectly with most meals here.

And describing the LA kosher restaurant scene wouldn’t be complete without hailing its two most popular pizza places; Nagila Pizza on Pico, and Pizza Maven on LaBrea. Nagila has more of an Israeli flavor and might have the slightly tastier pizza, but you might feel more at home talking to Mr. Ullman, the pizza maven himself. And there’s nothing quite like getting served some of those famous “papas fritas”!

And some posts about – water at the airport, kosher restaurants in  the Bay Area and a horror story in the air.

And the best part – in A Kosher Restaurant you will not see Paris Hilton.

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