Update: Aeroplan has removed the multi-city price option. Looks like deal is dead.

Yesterday I talked about the new Aeroplan pricing system and the new method that the computer uses to auto-validate routings. Many things have changed, yet during the engine swap something very interesting has happened. I looked into it further, and it just turned out be one of the greatest pricing “curiosities” Aeroplan has ever seen.

Right now, every single itinerary is pricing to the amount of your first stopover, regardless of the final destination. As you can imagine, this is huge. In effect, you can travel anywhere in the world for the price of a domestic award. If you currently have Aeroplan points sitting around (such as from the American Express Business Gold Rewards Card), this is an unbeatable opportunity to use them.

Look at Toronto to Montreal… to Paris. For the same price as a domestic round trip.

Bildschirmfoto 2014-10-31 um 22.27.22

Toronto to Montreal to Paris to Toronto for the same price as a domestic award

The “original” price will show on the first screen, but when you click through, the lower price is displayed instead. In order to click through to book, you’ll need at least 50% of the miles required of the “original” price. Of course if you begin/end in other zones, you can get a business or first class “mini-RTW” for the price of a simple domestic.

Of course this is not going to last, but this will go down as one of the biggest “sale” fares I have ever seen.

Earning Aeroplan Miles

Just as a recap, the best ways to earn Aeroplan miles are by flying, credit cards or transferring them from American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. Current credit card offers useful for accruing Aeroplan include:

Alternative cards include the American Express Platinum Card (Canada) which comes with a 60,000 point signup bonus, as well as the Starwood Preferred Guest Card (Canada) which comes with a 10,000 point signup bonus.

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Aeroplan recently unveiled a whole host of new changes to their 2015 program, most of which were negative. However, given some of the highest American Express signup bonuses we’ve seen for a while (such as the American Express Business Gold Rewards Card‘s 40000 mile bonus), the redemption side of things were mostly untouched. Until today that is, since a new method of validating award tickets and applying maximum permitted mileage rules came into effect.

The changes are very different, yet unannounced, but based on what I’ve seen the new method of validation has both ups and downs. The old maximum permitted mileage system was rumoured to be on the way out, and it had indeed been replaced. But that doesn’t mean complete lawlessness in the field of validating awards – you are still bound by new distance-based routing rules. Let’s take a look at exactly what the new rules are, and how they compare.

The IATA Maximum Permitted Mileage is determined by city pair and routing, and is common with all IATA airlines. The new routing system is 100% mileage based and is calculated solely based on the distance between your origin and your point of turnaround. You are then allocated a certain number of miles, regardless of which routing you take. It sounds complex in theory, but examples are good, so here are some.

Aeroplan Permitted Mileage Rules

Take a hypothetical award between Sydney, Australia and Toronto. Under the old routing validation system, you were allowed the MPM plus 5% for your specific routing. Let’s see what this means.

The MPM+5 for Toronto to Sydney via the Pacific is 12165 miles. This means that you could route via Beijing (12130 miles):

Toronto to Sydney via Beijing, a valid Aeroplan routing

…but not this (13231 miles):

Toronto to Sydney via Tokyo and Auckland, not permitted under the old MPM+5 rules

However, IATA also publishes a MPM for Toronto to Sydney via Atlantic, which at MPM+5 is 21000 miles. This meant that under the old system, you could effectively validate routings such as Toronto to Sydney via Los Angeles, Zurich, Tokyo and Auckland (20907 miles).

Toronto to Sydney via Los Angeles, Zurich, Tokyo and Auckland, a valid routing under the old MPM+5

Under the new validation system, the MPM rules have been replaced with a centralised maximum mileage value, which is determined solely by your city pair. In the case of Toronto to Sydney for instance, the new mileage rules permit a maximum of 15440 miles, regardless of the routing taken. This means that convoluted routings via the Atlantic are no longer permitted such the one above, but mileage for those traveling via the Pacific has been increased significantly.

Toronto to Sydney via San Francisco, Shanghai and Singapore, now a valid Aeroplan routing

Increases in Permitted Mileage

One of the real beneficiaries of this new change are short to medium haul awards, or intra-zone awards. Take Singapore to Shanghai for example, where the old MPM+5 was 2971 miles. Under the new routing rules, you are now permitted a maximum of 4278 miles – a significant increase. This means all sorts of routes are now possible, such as via Fukuoka (3335 miles):

Shanghai to Singapore via Fukuoka

…or via Nagoya (4034 miles):

Singapore to Shanghai via Nagoya

or even via Hong Kong and Osaka-Kansai (3940 miles):

Singapore to Shanghai via Hong Kong and Osaka-Kansai

Maximising New Aeroplan Routing Rules

The way to maximise the new rules are pretty simple – make your sure your point of turnaround is as far away from your origin as possible. For example, if you lived in Toronto, you’d look for the furthest point away from Toronto as a point of turnaround for a mini-RTW (something like Perth). Before, you could get away with routing a mini-RTW with a destination of Tokyo for instance, due to the generous MPM+5 values offered via the Atlantic. Now, a centralised maximum mileage value for all routing means the further the distance to your destination, the more miles you will have to work with. It’s really much more simple, in a sense.

Earning Aeroplan Miles

The best ways to earn Aeroplan miles are by flying, credit cards or transferring them from American Express Membership Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. Credit card offers useful for accruing Aeroplan include:

Both of these cards have the annual fee waived for the first year. Alternative cards include the American Express Platinum Card (Canada) which comes with a 60,000 point signup bonus, as well as the Starwood Preferred Guest Card (Canada) which comes with a 10,000 point signup bonus.

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Aeroplan is running a transfer bonus on points transferred INTO your Aeroplan account. They’ve ran it quite a few times and it’s happened quite regularly every time. The last time it ran was in May. The bonuses for earning more Aeroplan points are tiered, and max out at 25% for a 25,000 point bonus when you transfer a combined total of 100,000 points from programs.

Aeroplan Transfer Bonus Promotion (Nov 2014)

Aeroplan Transfer Bonus

Aeroplan Transfer Bonus

At all other levels, the bonus is only 20%. Most hotel partners as well as some other partners are included, with the exception of the Canadian and American version of the American Express Program. Even though AMEX points don’t qualify in this transfer bonus, a great way to boost your Aeroplan balance if you’re Canadian is the American Express Business Gold Rewards Card. It offers a limited-time bonus of 40,000 miles, and the first year annual fee waived. AMEX Membership Rewards transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Aeroplan. Fulfilling the spend will get you 45,000 miles, which is enough to get you a one-way business class ticket to Europe. I wrote about the complete details of the offer in this post.

Aeroplan Transfer Promotion Participating Programs

Aeroplan Transfer Promotion Participating Programs

I think this Aeroplan transfer bonus is pretty ordinary. Nothing much has changed every time they’ve run this promo! In most cases, I wouldn’t not convert hotel points to Aeroplan since generally the conversion ratios are fairly poor. The incentive from this promotion is not strong enough to induce me to convert any points, although it is a nice bonus for people who already are planning to convert points to Aeroplan.

The two values I can think of where it might make sense is SPG where 80,000 SPG points will yield 125,000 Aeroplan miles, when you combine the extra 5,000 airline miles on every 20,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points converted, along with the 25,000 bonus miles from transferring into Aeroplan 100,000 points. 125,000 miles will get you a round-trip in First Class to Europe (albeit with fuel surcharges on Lufthansa), so it may be a good value for you if you value that.

The other instance where it might make sense is if topping up from an account and you had limited use for your hotel points. However, most of the above programs probably do have more valuable transfer partners, for example Alaska MileagePlan. You should weigh out your options before you convert as there’s no going back.

Note that the bonus for points.com is only for miles converted out of Aeroplan, so a points.com transfer to US Airways does not qualify. I wrote about that particular redemption here, which may still be of use. The transfers must be made before November 27, and the bonus miles will be credited 7-10 days after.

You can see any additional promotion details on Aeroplan’s site.

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The Air Canada representative on Flyertalk released some details today about a revamped devalued Air Canada Altitude elite status program for 2015.

Air Canada Changes

Air Canada Changes

I have to say it is looking pretty bleak. Here are a summary of the changes and my thoughts.

Air Canada Altitude Negative Changes

Minimum Air Canada Flight Requirement
The Minimum Air Canada Flight Requirement to reach Altitude status for 2016 is increasing. To qualify for Altitude status in 2016, the following Minimum Air Canada Flight Requirement will need to be met:
Prestige 25K: 12,500 AQM /12 AQS
Elite 35K: 17,500 AQM /17 AQS
Elite 50K: 25,000 AQM /25 AQS
Elite 75K: 37,500 AQM / 37 AQS
Super Elite 100K: 50,000 AQM / 47 AQS
The new MFR will not impact qualification for Altitude 2015.

This change significantly increases the 10,000 Altitude (elite) qualifying mile (AQM)/5 segment elite qualifying segments (AQS) needed to currently qualify for Air Canada status. I am guessing that an attempt to shut out flyers who don’t fly Air Canada enough. They already attempted to do this by changing mileage earning on some United cheapo fares to 50%, but this further change means the majority of flyers who don’t fly at least half of their qualifying flights on AC won’t make status.

eUpgrades to Business Class
For eUpgrade requests made on or after March 1, 2015, the number of eUpgrade Credits required to upgrade is increasing. The number of eUpgrade Credits you can earn through the Threshold eUpgrades program is also changing. These changes were made following a thorough benchmarking of the upgrades practices of other major international airlines who often limit international upgrades solely to their highest membership tier, and often severely limit the number of upgrades a member may request over the course of a year.

Current Air Canada eUpgrade Chart

Current Air Canada eUpgrade Chart

New eUpgrade Chart

New eUpgrade Chart

This is where a lot of elite status travellers are ticked off. If you look at their charts, the eUpgrades required for most international flights go up close to 50%. That’s excluding the $500-750 copay required for all but top-tier elites flying long-haul. This is a very negative devaluation for most flyers.

Flight Rewards for Premium Economy
In early 2015, you will be able to redeem Aeroplan miles for seats in the Premium Economy cabin on Air Canada. Details will be coming soon.

I’m really hoping I’m being cynical here, but the vague language the announcement is using makes me think that a devaluation is coming to Aeroplan soon, which isn’t going to be fun. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen…

Fuel Surcharge on Flight Rewards & Flight Reward change fee waivers
For reservations made as of March 1, 2015, the fuel surcharges on ClassicFlight rewards for travel within Canada and between Canada and the U.S. will be waived for all Altitude members. This is applicable on flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada rouge. The fuel surcharges on ClassicFlight Rewards for travel between Canada and international destinations will be waived for Super Elite 100K members on flights operated by Air Canada, Air Canada Express and Air Canada rouge.

This is cool, and possibly the only actual improvement, except it’s only limited to SE 100k members. If I was top-tier, now I’d be much more inclined to fly Air Canada since there’s no fuel surcharge. Air Canada tends to have to pretty international award space compared to non-fuel surcharge options such as EVA, Swiss, Air New Zealand, and Singapore Airlines, among others. It’s actually pretty cool, since SE members also have access to IKK, which means they can essentially turn upgrade bucket seats (R Class) into award seats, and book that with no fuel surcharge.

There are few more negative changes:

  • No more change fee waiver for Super Elite 100k memberson Aeroplan Awards
  • Removal of free Star Alliance lounge access for Elite 35k members
  • Limit of 10 Priority Rewards (last minute seats at 2x miles) for elite members
  • Removal of 500 mile minimums for all members

The announcement contains a lot of language containing benchmark lounge access, upgrade options, and other benefits of elite status to other North American airlines, like Delta, United, and American. Now, what I think is that if you are going to do that, how about you benchmark the credit card accrual opportunities for Canadian as well? I’d like that very much ;)

A great way to boost your Aeroplan balance if you’re Canadian is the American Express Business Gold Rewards Card offers a limited-time bonus of 40,000 miles, and the first year annual fee waived. AMEX Membership Rewards transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Aeroplan, so it’s actually a bit ironic that one credit card application will probably get you more miles than all the flying you will do in an year, unless you’re a top-tier status member. I wrote about the complete details of the offer in this post.

Overall, these changes are awful. No doubt Air Canada probably crunched the numbers, and decided the reduced revenues of members fleeing to other programs was going to be less than the benefits of the reduced costs of eupgrades, miles, and increased revenue from more Air Canada flying. I’m really thankful I didn’t bother “investing” in any elite status, as it’s honestly significantly cheaper through accruing redeemable miles to fly in luxury wherever I want. These devaluations are another reason why mileage running and elite status for most leisure flyers aren’t worth it.

You can see the full list of updates to the Altitude program here.

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Most recently, I’ve had a lot of readers email me with questions about the American Express Business Gold Card. I wrote about the improved offer in this post. It currently offers 40,000 points as a signup bonus, which is the highest I’ve ever seen for a card with no annual fee.

In their emails, readers have said they’re not at the point where they can put $5000 of spend in the first three months. I personally think that it shouldn’t be that difficult to generate $1667 of spend a month, even with an American Express.

What is Plastiq?

Today, I want to talk about another potential way to increase your credit card spending for purchases you already make, through a site called Plastiq. Plastiq is an online site that allows Canadians to pay expenses using credit cards where they normally aren’t accepted through regular payment options.

Plastiq

Plastiq

The most common expenses that come to mind where you can’t normally pay with a credit card include your income and property taxes, as well as (university tuition). Those are normally significant chunks of money you HAVE to spend annually, so being able to pay them with a credit card especially with minimum spend is especially great.

Pay UBC tuition with Plastiq

Pay UBC tuition with Plastiq

You can see what other companies partner with Plastiq in their company directory. Most of their partners are located in Canada, although they have some companies in the US too. I’d assume that they’d charge in USD there.

It’s a pretty straightforward process, where you signup on their site, and submit your credit card information similar to making a purchase online.

Payment Instructions

Payment Instructions

The downside is that there’s a 1.99% service fee involved. I wouldn’t recommend for paying normally, except in select circumstances where you’d value the points you get from the purchase. The ~2% fee means that you’re purchasing points for 2 cents each, unless you’re getting 2 points/$, where then each mile would cost 1 cent apiece. That would happen for example if you paid with a Canadian Capital One Delta Mastercard. So if you valued Delta points at more than a cent a piece, it might make sense using it normally.

However, in regards to fulfilling minimum for a signup bonus, the value proposition significantly changes if that spend pushes you above spend level required to unlock the signup bonus. Take for example the 45,000 points offered with the small business AMEX. After fulfilling the minimum spend, those points are worth at a minimum $450, and if redeemed correctly you’d get a value of at least $600-650.

If you’re able to generate normally $500 normally on your card, to fulfill the rest of the $5000 spending, you could pay $3500 with Plastiq for tuition, tax, utilities, rent, or other expenses you’d normally pay with your bank account. That will generate a fee of $70 for using Plastiq. To unlock a valuable signup bonus, it is definitely worth considering. Heck, even I might pay my tuition with it!

If you can legitimately generate spend from your business, I’ve also talked about using Square to generate spend for free. Using Plastiq to meet your minimum spend, although not free, may be worth considering in certain circumstances to unlock valuable signup bonuses, such as the one on the American Express Small Business Gold Card.

I hope this helps, and as usual I’m happy to answer any questions in the comments or via email.

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This is a continuation of my flights from Vancouver to Melbourne via Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Singapore on Singapore First and Suites Class. You can see the other reviews from this trip in the links below.

Introduction
Planning and Booking
Plaza Premium Lounge Vancouver Transborder
Air Canada Premium Rouge Vancouver to Los Angeles
Los Angeles TBIT Star Alliance First Class Lounge
Singapore Suites Class Los Angeles to Tokyo
ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita

I had just visited the ANA Suites Lounge, and was ready to board my plane. Singapore Airlines operates two dailies from Tokyo Narita to Singapore. The afternoon flight is operated by the Airbus A380-800 as SQ11, which comes from Los Angeles. The night before this flight I took that flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita.

The morning Singapore Airlines flight is operated by a Boeing 777-300ER, often with the new first and business class products. For some reason, the days leading up to my flight had a mixture of planes with the new and old product, so I was especially happy that my flight would be operated by the new products. I was excited to review the Singapore Airlines new premium products!

Boarding Gate for Singapore Airlines Flight

Boarding Gate for Singapore Airlines Flight

My Review of the new Singapore Airlines First Class Product

Singapore Airlines SQ637
Tokyo Narita (NRT) to Singapore Changi (SIN)
11:10 to 17:20 (7 hours 10 minutes)
Boeing 777-300ER

I was warmly greeted by the crew upon boarding, and directed to my seat, 2F. The new first class seat has a similar seat width and pitch as their previous product. I immediately fell in love with the design of the seat.

Singapore Airlines First Class Seat 2F

Singapore Airlines First Class Seat 2F

There was one other passenger on board, seated in 1A, so there was lots of space in the cabin for me to take some photos. Singapore Airlines has 8 First Class seats on their Boeing 77W’s, in a 1-2-1 configuration.

Singapore Airlines First Class Seatmap

Singapore Airlines First Class Seatmap

While Cathay Pacific really sets the bar with their 1-1-1 configuration on their Boeing 777’s, the seats I think are wide enough and there’s lots of space. Instead of having armrests, they have a bit of a ledge on either side of the seat to rest your arms. It isn’t the best layout, but I’d rather have that than seats with really wide armrests that don’t go down unless you’re reclining the seat – for example the ANA First Square seats come to mind with that problem. I’d definitely rather have wider seats and no armrests.

The photos don’t really do the new cabin justice, as I think the decor given by the new cabin and the new(er) planes is amazing. The new first class product on this plane definitely gives me a feeling of sleek classiness as opposed to some of the more homey designs that other airlines adapt. The planes with the new products are all brand new deliveries and not a retrofit, so at most the planes are a year and a half old.

Sinagpore Airlines First Class Cabin

Singapore Airlines First Class Cabin

Sinagpore Airlines First Class Cabin

Singapore Airlines First Class Cabin

Sinagpore Airlines First Class Cabin

Singapore Airlines First Class Cabin

There was also mood lighting on during boarding.

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER mood lighting

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER mood lighting

I do like the design of the seat quite a lot. There’s a nice adjustable LED light, as well as a place to hang your headphones. The buttons to adjust the seat, lights, and call the FA are intuitive. I also like the Do Not Disturb Button, which I believe Asiana also has in their First Class Suites. The flap underneath the armrest in the picture below houses the IFE controller, which is touchscreen.

Sinagpore Airlines First Class Seat Armrest and Controls

Singapore Airlines First Class Seat Armrest and Controls

The seats are also equipped with a good sized IFE system with nice screen quality, although sometimes navigating the menus on the system wasn’t very efficient.

Sinagpore Airlines First Class IFE Screen

Singapore Airlines First Class IFE Screen

Sinagpore Airlines First Class Touchscreen IFE Controller

Singapore Airlines First Class Touchscreen IFE Controller

There’s a storage area below the armrest for your phones, passports, and other smaller items, as well as a USB outlet/charger.

Singapore Airlines First Class Storage Area

Singapore Airlines First Class Storage Area

There’s also a space to put your reading material and menus.

Singapore Airlines First Class Storage Area

Singapore Airlines First Class Storage Area

There was also another storage space where the Bose Quietcomfort headphones were located.

Singapore Airlines First Class Storage Area

Singapore Airlines First Class Storage Area

Beside the TV monitor was a vanity mirror.

Singapore Airlines First Class Mirror

Singapore Airlines First Class Mirror

Dana from the cabin crew introduced herself by my seat and also handed out the Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kit, eyeshade, and Givenchy pyjamas. The contents of the amenity kit was the same as the one I received on my flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo.

Singapore Airlines First Class Amenity Kit

Singapore Airlines First Class Amenity Kit

I asked for some water as my pre-departure beverage, which was presented with a hot towel.

Singapore Airlines First Pre-Departure Beverage

Singapore Airlines First Pre-Departure Beverage

We took off after a brief delay due to aircraft congestion at Narita. After taking off, one of the FA’s mentioned to me that we were passing by Mt. Fuji, which was a nice touch. I managed to get a photo with my iPhone.

Mt. Fuji

Mt. Fuji

I also had a chance to take a look at the menu.

Singapore Airlines First Class Menu

Singapore Airlines First Class Menu

Singapore Airlines First Class Menu

Singapore Airlines First Class Menu

Singapore Airlines First Class Menu

Singapore Airlines First Class Menu

On this flight there was either the choice of Japanese Kaesaki or Western cuisine for lunch.

Singapore Airlines First Class Menu

Singapore Airlines First Class Menu

Singapore Airlines First Class Menu

Singapore Airlines First Class Menu

Singapore Airlines First Class Menu

Singapore Airlines First Class Menu

For those who are interested, here’s a copy of the drinks list and alcohol. SIA is the only airline to offer both Dom Perignon and Krug Grand Cuvee champagne in First Class.

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Singapore Airlines First Class Drinks List

Lunch service started around half an hour after takeoff. First, there was satay, which was delicious.

Singapore Airlines Satay

Singapore Airlines Satay

This was followed by caviar, a soup, and a salad.

Malossol Caviar

Malossol Caviar

Tomato Puree Soup

Tomato Puree Soup

Salad

Salad

The soup was runny and lacking in flavour and the salad a bit uninspiring, but otherwise perfectly edible. I had preordered the chicken noodle soup from book the cook in anticipation that I’d want comfort food. It was tasty, but probably would have been done much better on the ground.

Book the Cook Chicken Noodle Soup

Book the Cook Chicken Noodle Soup

The desert was tasty.

Peach Parfait Desert

Peach Parfait Desert

After the meal, pralines and a hot towel was offered.

Pralines

Pralines

Hot Towel

Hot Towel

I thought the catering on this flight was just a bit off. Other than the caviar, the food itself weren’t “spectacular”, as it should be in first class. By no means am I a foodie, but I definitely feel the courses could have been done a lot better. Perhaps in hindsight I should have ordered the Japanse Kaiseki meal.

One of the best parts of this flight was the in-flight wifi. It’s strange, but anything that happens 35000ft in the air suddenly makes it 100x better, like double beds, showers, and wifi, which are normally essentials. ;)

The wifi was $21.95 for the whole flight, and the speeds were on-par with other in-flight wifi services. It’s a much better value than the On-Air system that Singapore Airlines has on most of it’s other aircraft. Like other in-flight wifi systems, they block VOIP apps and programs, like Skype.

After the meal, the cabin crew set up the bed in 2D, one of the aisle seats. I attempted to get some rest, although I’m not very good at sleeping on planes.

Again, I found that the design on the First Class seats very conducive to enhanced privacy and comfort. I loved the padded seatback when the seat converts to a bed, as well as the side shield that gives much more privacy, which was again an improvement over the previous generation of Singapore Airlines FCL seats.

Singapore Airlines First Class Bed

Singapore Airlines First Class Bed

As well, there’s a wide and completely square area for your head, as opposed to the older Singapore Airlines First Class seats which have a bump taking around half the width of the seat, forcing you to almost sleep diagonally. The bed is a significant improvement structurally over the previous first class seats, and is a great instance of how design is so important in the hard product of first class.

The most common criticism that the SQ F seat gets is that they have to be converted to a seat by the SIA steward/stewardess, and thus there aren’t so many lounging positions. This isn’t a big issue for me as I’m perfectly happy sitting in the bed to “lounge.”

I ended up napping for around an hour or two. After I woke up, I took a walk around the plane to check out the new business and economy class products. Both the business and economy class products look very nice, and probably the best in their class.

Singapore Airlines New 77W Business Class Cabin

Singapore Airlines New 77W Business Class Cabin

I’ve flown in Singapore’s business class product on the A380, which is moderately similar in layout to the new business class seat. I like SQ’s long-haul business class product more than reverse herringbone, which attests to how competitive Singapore Airlines’s long-haul business class seat is. The new design improves functionality and utility even more compared to the previous generation seat.

Singapore Airlines New 77W Business Class Seat

Singapore Airlines New 77W Business Class Seat

Economy class also looked really comfortable compared to other carriers, and the new IFE with the same controller as in First Class really emphasized the nice technology that the new planes have.

Singapore Airlines New 77W Economy Class Cabin

Singapore Airlines New 77W Economy Class Cabin

I headed back to First Class, and decided I wanted something to eat. That’s when I realized that there was only one meal service on the menu, with no snack menu. Of course in the grand scheme of things, that was a total first world problem, and not a big deal at all for me. However, for a 7 hour flight, that’s pretty disappointing, especially when Thai Airways serves two meals on their flights to Japan in First Class, which are often redeyes. I don’t think it’s just me that feels the need for two meal services on this flight and I’m pretty sure some full-fare passengers would be very pissed. It would make a lot more sense to offer a second meal or at least a snack menu or light meal so people don’t go hungry.

What made it even worse was that there wasn’t a lot of food leftover from the first meal. Either the flight was catered lightly (since up until the day of departure I was the only person on the flight), it wasn’t hygienic to serve the food that had been stored for several hours, or someone had ate it all. The cabin crew told me that they were out of one of the mains I wanted and the Kaesaki meal, so I ended up having the lobster appetizer, which was alright.

Farro Salad with Lobster

Farro Salad with Lobster

I also had some blue mountain coffee along with if it, which was DELICIOUS.

Singapore Airlines Blue Mountain Coffee

Singapore Airlines Blue Mountain Coffee

I got a bit of work done thanks to the wifi, and before I knew it, we were pretty close to landing in Singapore Changi Airport.

Landing into Singapore Changi

Landing into Singapore Changi

Landing into Singapore Changi

Landing into Singapore Changi

We deplaned and I got one last shot of the plane before heading to very first visit to the Private Room!

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER

Overall Thoughts

That concluded a pretty nice flight with Singapore Airlines. The flight overall was average in comparison with other spectacular flights I’ve taken. The FA’s were very consistent in monitoring the cabin, efficiently refilling and clearing glasses, and were nice and polite. But it was lacking that extra indescribable bit that makes good first class flights spectacular and memorable.

The weaker catering was probably the most disappointing part of the flight, but the in-flight wifi as well as the stunning first class product made up for it. Since these new planes only operate to London and Tokyo Narita (except when there’s an occasional aircraft swap and they’re sent to other 77W destinations), I personally think it’s one of the nicest first class products out there. My opinions and reviews are totally skewed by new planes and “rarity” of products. However, I do think it is a great product and near the head of the pack when it comes to international first class cabins.

While only KrisFlyer miles can be redeemed on Singapore Airlines First Class, Aeroplan does allow you to fly first class on other Star Alliance carriers. A simple way to boost your Aeroplan balance if you’re Canadian is the American Express Business Gold Rewards Card offers a limited-time bonus of 40,000 miles upon signup and $5000 spend within three months, and the first year annual fee waived. AMEX Membership rewards transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Aeroplan. It is a fantastic offer which I detailed and analyzed here.

Previous Review: ANA Suites Lounge, Tokyo Narita Airport

Next Review: The Singapore Airlines Private Room, Singapore Changi Airport

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Credit cards are really heating up this month, and it seems over the past months that many issuers are one-upping each other with offers and benefits. Where I used to see the standard 15,000 miles as a signup bonus, most issuers has steadily increased those to 25,000 or 30,000. We now see cards like the Scotiabank Gold American Express, the BMO World Elite Cards, and most cards at the $250-$300 equivalent mark. That’s fantastic.

TD, since acquiring the ability to offer Aeroplan co-branded cards, is also trying to establish some market share. They’ve been offering 25,000 miles as a signup bonus for quite a while. However, the card came with a $120 annual fee, that I did not like. The only annual fees I would ever pay are the fees for the Starwood and American Express Platinum cards.

The TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite is now offering waived first year annual fees through a special link.

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Waived Annual Fee Promotion

TD Aeroplan Visa First Year Fee Waived

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite First Year Fee Waived

I think the offer has been going on since Friday, as that’s when it first started circulating around on forums. However, I didn’t notice until this morning.

The official public link with annual fee is http://www.tdcanadatrust.com/products-services/banking/credit-cards/view-all-cards/aeroplan-infinite-card.jsp

The link with the fee waived is: http://www.tdcanadatrust.com/products-services/banking/credit-cards/view-all-cards/aeroplan-infinite-card/ac.jsp

The latter link does include wording which waives annual fee, as you can see in the screenshot below.

TD Aeroplan VIsa Offer Page

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Offer Page

If you are concerned about not having the fees rebated, then I’d suggest you take a printscreen of the application page to show to any relevant parties if necessary.

I would recommend the offer if there is no annual fee, as that’s essentially 26,000 free Aeroplan miles after completing the spending. If you are planning to apply, it is worth considering the American Business Gold Rewards Card, which is offering a CRAZY HIGH 40,000 points signup bonus! I highly recommend getting both cards.

After completing the spending, you’re at 71,000 free Aeroplan miles! That’s absolutely a smoking deal for getting just two Canadian credit card offers, and will get you First Class to Europe one-way or pretty close to a one-way business class ticket to Asia. The TD offer will run until October 31, while the American Express offer has an undetermined limited-offer time, which means it could be changed as soon as AMEX meets their targets.

TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Details

Combing through the fine print of the offer, it says

If you have opened an Account in the last 6 months, you will not be eligible for this offer. TD Canada Trust reserves the right to limit the number of Accounts opened by, and the number of Welcome Bonus Miles awarded to, any one person.

It seems they’re getting a little more picky with churners, although the wording is still lax.

Annual Fee for Primary Cardholder rebated for first year for new TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite Accounts only. Annual Fee will be reversed within 2 monthly statements from the date of the charge. Annual Fee for any Authorized User Cards added to the Account continue to apply. Existing TD Aeroplan Cardholders are not eligible for this offer.

To be eligible, you currently cannot hold any TD Aeroplan Visa credit cards.

There’s nothing that I can see in the offer being targeted only to those who received the it, so it does appear that the public can apply through the links. You can see the full email offer here, and can apply for the TD Aeroplan Visa Infinite here.

Tip of the Hat to Canadian Travel Hacking

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Update: I’ve heard the AMEX IS shutting down people for cash-like transactions to meet minimum spends with Square, so I would avoid using Square illegitimately, and only related to real business expenses or sales.

I’ve received lots of reader questions and emails about the new HOT offer for the American Express Business Gold Rewards Card, which now offers 40,000 Membership Rewards points as a signup bonus.

One of the biggest questions I’ve received is meeting the minimum spend requirements, which is $5000 for the first three months of card membership. It looks like a lot, but if you split it out it’s only $1666 per month for three months. I’m hoping most of you here generate $1666 or more a month. But if you don’t, there might be a way to chop a few thousands dollars off the spend by leveraging manufactured spend. Manufacturing spend is generating charges through the card, but getting the money back through the process, resulting in free miles and free spend.

Square is a company that offers credit card processing solutions. One of it’s coolest products is a card reader dongle you can plug into your smartphone to swipe credit cards, which saves you (if you’re a business) the hassle of getting a bulky credit card processing solution.

Square Reader

Square Reader

Usually, there are fees involved in credit card processing, but Square is running a promotion offering $1000 in free processing. Furthermore, they’re also running a referral program, that allows you to get an additional $1000 in free spending for each friend that signs up for Square as a new customer. They’ll also get $1000 in free processing for signing up through the refer-a-friend link. You can get your own link after signing yourself up.

Square Referral

Square Referral

Normally, processing fees for swipe transactions are 2.75%. Even at that rate, that’s pretty reasonable even to meet the $5000 amount with no hassle. That amounts to $110 after the $1000 for free processing. If you refer even one friend, that goes down to $82.50, not to mention any regular expenses you have that can be charged to the card, unlocking a ~$600 signup bonus.

Word has circulated online that Square shuts down people for freezing and shutting down accounts for fishy activity. However, I think paying your roommate/parents/colleagues/partners for legitimate expenses such as rent or other legitimate expenses should be okay. I haven’t received the credit card reader yet, so I don’t know how sensitive they are on payments, but I will do a follow-up post when I do using the reader to charge my credit card. I will be applying for the Business Gold American Express, so I likely will be attempting use Square to meet part of my spend.

Square does verify your identity when you sign up, so you can’t make accounts for your pets and your good friends in Nigeria who are requiring your assistance in retrieving a huge fortune.

For people who do have trouble making the minimum payments, it might make sense to get Square (which is free), signup a few friends to increase the amount of free processing that you get, and then cycle payments for legitimate expenses to meet spends. By no means is this a permanent manufacture spend solution in Canada, but it’s essentially free miles for the first $1000 of spend. You can sign up for Square through my link.

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American Express Membership Rewards are among the useful as a Canadian, because they have the flexibility to transfer to both Aeroplan and Avios. Today, they’ve just positively changed the offer on the American Express Business Gold Rewards Card.

The offer is now 40,000 points, with a waived first year annual fee. This is AMAZING! 

This is the first 40,000 points offer I’ve EVER SEEN with no ANNUAL FEE. THIS IS BASICALLY THE BEST HISTORIC OFFER I’VE EVER SEEN FOR A NO FEE CARD. WOW.

American Express Business Gold Rewards Card

American Express Business Gold Rewards Card

Along with the Platinum Card, which offers 60,000 points, as well as the personal Gold Rewards Card, which offers 25,000 points as signup bonuses, American Express has one of the most lucrative offers at this point. Currently, the public offer is a 30,000 points, but through my link, you can receive 40,000 miles.

There are a few major points that are worth noting.

40,000 miles American Express Business Gold Signup Bonus

THIS. IS. HUGE. Membership Rewards are extremely flexible, and can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to Avios or Aeroplan. That means, at the very least after the spending, you’re getting 45,000 of those for free. You can also redeem for a TripFlex credit, which is that great of a deal but is still free. In my opinion, the signup offer is worth at the very least $675, because I would value Aeroplan/Avios at 1.5 cents apiece.

$5000 Minimum Spending to Unlock Signup Bonus

To earn the 40,000 points signup bonus, you have to charge a minimum of $5,000 within the first three months to unlock the 40,000 points from the signup bonus. This might be a bit steep compared to previous offers, but I’m sure that most people should have at least $1666 of chargeable expenses a month. So if they just shift all their spend to this card, then it shouldn’t be too hard. Alternatively,you can float $5000 through a few months by buying something refundable or gift cards for later use. I personally don’t see the minimum spend as a big issue. If it is for you, please let me know.

Small Business Credit Card Application Requirements

This American Express Business Gold Rewards card is intended for small businesses owners. That’s what American Express says.

Who Should Apply?

Who Should Apply?

However, anecdotally, I’ve heard that American Express isn’t as strict with this card as say TD, who requires Articles of Incorporation and Master Business License, among other things.

TD Requirements for Small Business Credit Card

TD Requirements for Small Business Credit Card

You might be able (no guarantees) to get the card based on existing businesses you run or perhaps even things you do on the side that you might not consider a business – the one that comes to mind right now is an Ebay seller or other online seller.

The application from what I’ve seen still asks for your Social Insurance Number, as well as your personal income, so it may be possible that American Express can be evaluating you personally while also looking at your business. I will be applying for this card soon, so I’ll write a followup post on what they’re looking for.

View From the Wing write about why you should get a small business credit card.

Conclusion

Even though it’s an amazing offer, I think it’s worth considering the several points I’ve just talked about. However, having said that, it is an AMAZING OFFER! Let me know if you have any additional questions in the comments.

Here are the official marketing bullets for the card:

  • Earn 1 point for every $1 in purchases charged to the Card. Plus, you can earn 1 extra point for every $1 in eligible purchases charged to the Card at 3 suppliers you pick from a list of select American Express merchants in Canada. You can earn up to a maximum of 250,000 extra points in each calendar year.
  • Earn 40,000 welcome points by making $5,000 in purchases in your first 3 months of Cardmembership.
  • Transfer your points, at no charge, to many frequent flyer and other loyalty programs including 1:1 to Aeroplan and Avios.
  • Maximize your cash flow with up to 55 interest-free days.
  • Expense Management Reports. Quarterly and annual reporting that makes record keeping, expense tracking and tax preparation easier.
  • Offset Business Expenses with PointFlex for BusinessTM.
  • Offset Trip Expenses with TripFlexTM rewards.
  • $250 Annual Fee First Year Annual Fee WAIVED which may be a tax deductible expense (30% annual interest rate applies to balances not paid in full).

Application Link: American Express Business Gold Rewards Card

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Uber has literally changed the way I travel. For those of you who don’t know, Uber is a great car service where you can use in many cities worldwide to order a car with your smartphone. The app has made it much easier to manage my transportation needs when in a city, especially where public transit isn’t the best option.

New users can earn up to a $30 credit on their first ride. If you haven’t already signed up, this is currently and historically the most credit that Uber gives from a referral code signup. 

Uber

Uber

Yesterday, I saw an article pop up on my feeds that Uber was potentially returning to Vancouver. I’ve been hoping for this day for a LONG time, so I was incredibly happy. They’ve had to avoid Vancouver due to bylaws which mandate a minimum $75 for private cars. Most recently they were in Vancouver for Ice Cream Day, where they delivered Uber Swag and Ice Cream to users.

Apparently, Uber has been looking at hiring drivers through targeted social media ads, and they’ve also uploaded several administrative position postings on their jobs site.

Uber Vancouver Targeted Ad

Uber Vancouver Targeted Ad

Most likely, they’d attempt restarting their UberBlack service before launching an UberX service, which is a ride driven by a regular person in their own car.

I’m really hoping they’ll be back in Vancouver soon!

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This is a continuation of my flights from Vancouver to Melbourne via Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Singapore. I had just flown Suites Class on the Airbus A380 from Los Angeles to Tokyo. I wrote about how I booked my flights in this post.

You can see all my posts and review of this trip in the introduction.

Flight Path

Flight Path

Since I was taking the morning flight (SQ637) from Narita, I spend my quick overnight at the Mercure Narita. I got a rate for around $50 USD. The hotel and room was fairly basic but had a decent enough bed and was right next to the train station.

After walking around Narita town that morning, I took the Keisei Main Line headed to Narita at around 9am. The Singapore Airlines counter was located at the far side of the terminal. I wanted another set of boarding passes, so I headed over there to print the boarding passes.

There were separate First, Business, and Economy class lines, with no waits in the premium cabin check-in lanes. The lounge agent handed me boarding passes for Tokyo – Singapore – Melbourne, as well as a Private Room invitation for use in Singapore.

Singapore Airlines Check-In Tokyo Narita

Singapore Airlines Check-In Tokyo Narita

Unfortunately, there’s no priority security or immigration at Narita for Singapore Airlines passengers. Security and immigration probably took close to 20+ minutes. ANA does have a private security and immigration channel for NH Diamond (top tier) and First Class passengers, which United First passengers also have access to. I really wish SQ would get access, but I wasn’t in a hurry so it wasn’t too bad.

ANA F and United F Private Check-In

ANA F and United F Private Check-In

Narita is one of my favourite airports in the world. It’s pretty far from Tokyo but I love how it’s so clean and organized, especially Terminal 1.

Tokyo Narita Airport

Tokyo Narita Airport

As a first class passenger, there are two ANA Suites lounges, as well as the United International First Lounge. I had lots of time so ended up lounge hopping between the two ANA Suites lounges. The concourse is shaped like a triangle, so if you decide to walk a whole lap around the terminal you’ll pass by all three lounges.

Tokyo Narita Terminal 1 Map

Tokyo Narita Terminal 1 Map

They’re both pretty similar, so I can’t tell which photos came from the Satellite No.4 or Satellite No.5 Lounge. Pretty much from what I remember the only difference is that one of them has a dual entrance (and separate lounge areas) for business and first class passengers, while the other is on a separate floor.

ANA Suites Lounge Entrance 1

ANA Suites Lounge Entrance 1

ANA Suites Lounge Entrance 2

ANA Suites Lounge Entrance 2

All Star Alliance First Class passengers have access to these lounges, which include Lufthansa, Thai, Swiss, United, ANA, Asiana, Singapore and Air China. The ANA lounge entrance has a nice sign certifying ANA’s 5-Star Skytrax rating. The entrance counter also has a basket of incredibly delicious fruit-flavoured hard candies.

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Entrance

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Entrance

When you enter you’re offered a hot towel and a drink of your choice, although everything after that is self-serve.

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Welcome Drink and Hot Towel

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Welcome Drink and Hot Towel

The Suites lounge doesn’t usually get too crowded, even more so since ANA moved a few Europe morning departures to Haneda. The business class regular ANA lounge tends to be more crowded. There’s plenty of seating.

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Tarmac View

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Tarmac View

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Seating

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Seating

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Seating

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Seating

The views from the lounge are quite good, and allowed me to see the Boeing 777-300ER I would be travelling on.

View of the Singapore AIrlines Boeing 777-300ER

View of the Singapore AIrlines Boeing 777-300ER

I love the ambiance and lighting in the lounge. The ANA lounges also have a fantastic scent lingering through the whole lounge area.

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Seating

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Seating

There’s also a dining area with more seating.

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Dining Area

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Dining Area

The lounge doesn’t have waiter service or made to order food, unfortunately. The offerings for breakfast were fairly basic. All the labels for the food had energy values.

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Breakfast

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Breakfast

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Breakfast

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Breakfast

There was also a coffee machine, drinks cooler, and alcohol.

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Drinks

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Drinks

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Coffee Machine

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Coffee Machine

All I needed, however, was the noodle bar, which makes delicious udon and soba.

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Noddle Bar

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Noddle Bar

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Menu

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Menu

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Noodle Bar Menu

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Noodle Bar Menu

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Udon

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Udon

The unlimited Hagen-Dazs available in a cooler is also great. I’ve probably had close to 20+ cups in the few times I’ve been to the lounge. ;)

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Hagen-Dazs Ice Cream Cooler

ANA Suites Lounge Tokyo Narita Hagen-Dazs Ice Cream Cooler

Located a few steps away from the main seating area was a cubicle area and business center if you need to get work done.

ANA Suites Lounge Private Area

ANA Suites Lounge Private Area

ANA Suites Lounge Cubicle

ANA Suites Lounge Cubicle

ANA Suites Lounge Printer

ANA Suites Lounge Printer

ANA Suites Lounge Cubicle

ANA Suites Lounge Cubicle

A nifty looking automatic currency exchange machine was also near the business area.

ANA Suites Lounge Currency Exchange Machine

ANA Suites Lounge Currency Exchange Machine

The shower area is very nice.

ANA Suites Lounge Shower Area

ANA Suites Lounge Shower Area

For the most part you don’t have to wait, since there are many shower rooms.

ANA Suites Lounge Shower

ANA Suites Lounge Shower

They also have fancy Japanese toilets (I realize that’s like saying the lounge agents speak Japanese, haha!)

ANA Suites Lounge Toilet

ANA Suites Lounge Toilet

The showers themselves have fantastic temperature controls and excellent water pressure.

ANA Suites Lounge Shower

ANA Suites Lounge Shower

ANA Suites Lounge Sink

ANA Suites Lounge Sink

First Class passengers also receive miniature bottles of Shiseido products.

ANA Suites Lounge Shiseido Products

ANA Suites Lounge Shiseido Products

The lounges aren’t spectacular compared to other international first class lounges. For most people, this wouldn’t be much better than a business class lounge, except with slightly better amenities and fewer people in the lounge. But the ANA Suites Lounges are one of my favourite in the world. Perhaps it’s the fact that this was my very first international First Class lounge visit, or my irrational love of Tokyo Narita.

It feels as much like “home” as does the Plaza Premium Transborder lounge in Vancouver. Probably it stems from the 15+ hours I spent at one point in Narita over a 24 hour period. I think it’s also the fact that there’s nothing to “maximize” during your stay in the lounge, so you don’t have to arrival earlier to enjoy the ambiance as long as you can, unlike the Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt or Thai First Class Lounge in Bangkok.

Anyways, I ended up heading to the gate a few minutes after the boarding time on my boarding pass, not before getting some Matcha flavoured kit-kat.

Boarding was at Gate 46, where there was a separate queue for First Class passengers.

Boarding Gate for Singapore Airlines Flight

Boarding Gate for Singapore Airlines Flight

There was only another first class passenger other than me, so I was looking forward to the emptier cabin.

I had monitored the inbound flight from Singapore, and knew it was fitted with the new refurbished First and Business class products. That was pretty good luck, actually, since in August the SQ637/638 flights got the new products only around 50-60% of the time.

While only KrisFlyer miles can be redeemed on Singapore First Class, Aeroplan First Class awards do let you access the ANA Suites Lounge. A simple way to boost your Aeroplan balance if you’re Canadian is the American Express Gold Rewards Card offers a limited-time bonus of 25,000 miles upon signup and $500 spend within three months, and the first year annual fee waived. AMEX Membership rewards transfer at a 1:1 ratio to Aeroplan.

Previous Segment: Singapore First Class Suites Los Angeles to Tokyo

Next Segment: Singapore First Class Tokyo Narita to Singapore

 

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