The Great Marriott-Starwood Fustercluck, in theaters August 1

So, because capitalism loves nothing like a good, hard merger, in 2016, Marriott, which also owns Ritz-Carlton and a shit-ton of other hotel brands, scooped up Starwood, who also own a shit-ton of hotel brands. Marriott’s been presenting these, more or less, as three separate master brands, with separate loyalty programs: Marriott Rewards, Ritz-Carlton Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG), with easy points transfers between the programs.

We all knew that wasn’t gonna last forever, and now the day has come where the holy union of 29 hotel brands will come together to become a glorious new Rewards Program To Be Named Later. This is not a joke. The programs will merge into a single new program under three names, months before the new program gets a single name.

Overall, things will be a bit shittier, especially for people who spend on SPG cards. Things will be better for some people, too, especially regulars. Things are not nearly as shitty as they could have been.

This is not comprehensive. This is just a best effort. It’s probably wrong. Fucking sue me. I figured out some parts of it from other bloggers, anyway. The Points Guy and Frequent Miler have some good posts on this shit if you want to read more. Continue reading

Flying to Nowhere, or Wandering Around Newark Airport on a Sunday Afternoon

My friend Darren came to visit me for the weekend, and, in the absence of anything else to do, I accompanied him to glorious Newark International Airport for his departure. Our plan was to check out the Virgin Atlantic lounge, newly added to Priority Pass. We failed. But not without success, at least for me. You’ll have to slog your way to the bottom of this post to see what I mean. Continue reading

How the fuck are you supposed to book a seat on a partner airline, like when you fly Lufthansa by booking on United?

You know what makes me happy? It makes me happy when one of you readers comment and ask a question. Then I have a topic for another post, and I can feel briefly useful during our never ending march towards irrelevancy and death. I know, I bring the cheer around here!

Anyway, trusty reader Jack posted a comment yesterday in which he asked where the best place to get a handy in Manhattan is, and the answer is obviously 32nd St. No, no, I kid. He asked, “When you book thru United, it doesn’t allow you to see the seat layout and says something like, too bad so sad if you want to choose your seat. How did the seat assignment/choice process unfold for you?”

That, as they say in preschool, is a good question! And one I even have the answer to. And it was definitely relevant when wanting to make sure that I was in business class upstairs on the 747, not downstairs.

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Oh yeah my flight home was fucking awesome

I converted 70,000 Chase points to United miles and that got me business on Lufthansa. I know everyone says you want First on Lufthansa so you can be driven across the tarmac in a Porsche or whatever, but I was happy because I was on a 747-800, and those ain’t gonna be around forever. And the 747 has the upstairs, which I’ve always wanted to fly on. On LH, the whole upstairs is business, about 40 seats or so. It was like a plane within a plane. I mean, sure, I wish I had seen it in the lounge days of Pan Am, but you gotta take what you can get.

Someone I met at my Moldovan hostel was coincidentally on the same flight, but in the back of the bus. She’s 19, and I’m 130, so she can deal with that, and I can’t. I went to visit her, and I felt like I was walking through class stratification embodied as I passed through each successive cabin, going from quite private (upstairs), comfortable but less private (business downstairs) to tolerable but not very private (premium economy) to get-me-the-hell-out-of-here-there-are-so-many-people (economy). Like Snowpiercer.

The upstairs was really nice and quiet, and I drank a bunch of herbal liqueurs and slept. I mean, what would you have done?

Moldova/Transnistria: Final Day

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Transnistria is one of the weirdest fucking places I’ve ever been. Good weird. I can’t put my finger on what exactly is so weird about it, but it’s a place that is on the one hand connected to the world via their phones, and on the other, very, very isolated. You don’t get the sense that a lot of people come and go. Which makes sense, since Transnistrian passports aren’t considered by other countries to be, you know, passports. If a resident wants to go elsewhere, they’re going to need to try to also become citizens of Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, or elsewhere. Continue reading

Moldova Transnistria: Sunday

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Moldova’s eastern border is Ukraine. But down a strip of that border exists the “State of Transnistria” (or Pridnestrovia, as its Russian-speaking population calls it), population 500,000. I know this sounds like something I made up, and that’s because, officially, every UN country considers it to be part of Moldova. Moldova begrudgingly desribes Transnistria to be an “autonomous region” within Moldova. Continue reading