On the outskirts of a lesser-known central Iranian town, a natural marvel hides an ancient, mythological secret. Marco Ferrarese goes digging for clues. 

Breathing
heavily, I set one foot in front of the other, dunking my heels into soft, cold
sand. Above me, like a powerful light bulb hanging from the sky, the early
spring sun reflects over 360 degrees of silent dunes.

The
going is solitary and tough, but the sand breaks under my steps and supports me
like a ladder, giving me the balance I need to keep climbing. I am resolute,
and curious to see if this really is
the marvel that buried an ancient civilization.

When
I finally reach the top of the dune, pearls of cold sweat run down my spine and
my vision blurs. I need to sit down and rest. Slowly, my eyes readjust to a new
world of shimmering, undulating ochre sand, beautifully arranged before me as
far as I can see.

The post Did these epic Iranian sand dunes bury an entire civilization? appeared first on Adventure.com.

It’s no surprise that Bali has become a must-see destination for travelers all over the world. While there are over 15,000 islands in Indonesia, Bali’s infrastructure and larger local population make it easier to access for tourists looking to explore the country’s serene beaches, stunning mountains and hikes, and fresh, delicious cuisine.

While there are no nonstop flights from the US to Denpasar Airport (DPS) in Bali, there are a seemingly endless amount of one-stop options to choose from. No matter what points or miles you have in your possession, you should be able to find at least one or two good ways to fly to Bali.

Airlines That Fly to Bali

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 06: Taiwan Eva Air Boeing 777 at LAX on February 06, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
EVA Air is just one way to get from the US to Bali with a single stop. (Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

In order to make this list a little more useful, I’m only including the airlines that provide one-stop service from the US in a logical routing. So while Qantas, for example, flies from Sydney (SYD) to Bali, we’re going to ignore that roundabout routing and focus only on the best options. You also won’t see any European airlines on this list, as most frequent flyer programs won’t let you route through Europe on your way to Southeast Asia.

Star Alliance

  • EVA Air flies from Taipei (TPE) to Bali
  • Singapore Airlines flies from Singapore (SIN) to Bali

Oneworld

  • Cathay Pacific flies from Hong Kong (HKG) to Bali

SkyTeam

  • China Airlines flies from Taipei (TPE) to Bali
  • China Eastern flies from Shanghai (PVG) to Bali
  • Korean Air flies from Seoul (ICN) to Bali
  • Xiamen Air flies from Xiamen (XMN) to Bali

SkyTeam member Garuda Indonesia also flies to a number of international destinations from its hub in Bali. While it doesn’t fly nonstop to the US, you could fly a different SkyTeam airline from the US to Asia (Delta or China Eastern, for example) and then connect on Garuda Indonesia for the last leg.

Picking a Star Alliance Program

Out of the three major alliances, Star Alliance offers the largest number of useful loyalty programs, letting you pick which points to redeem to book any given award. We’ve done a Star Alliance booking showdown before, but for flights to Bali, there are five main programs you’ll want to keep your eyes on: Avianca LifeMiles, Aeroplan, ANA Mileage Club, United MileagePlus and Singapore KrisFlyer. These are some of the easiest miles to earn in the entire realm of travel rewards, meaning that you can start from almost any transferable points currency (Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One or Marriott Bonvoy) and still find a Star Alliance transfer partner to utilize.

While there are only two Star Alliance airlines that fly to Bali, EVA and Singapore happen to both be Skytrax Five Star airlines, offering incredible service in every cabin. Unfortunately Singapore doesn’t release long-haul premium cabin award space to partner programs, so your best bet is to use ExpertFlyer to find award space on EVA. Here’s what a round-trip award would cost you in each cabin, depending on which program you use to book:

Economy Business
Avianca LifeMiles 78,000 miles 156,000 miles
ANA Mileage Club 80,000 miles 136,000 miles
Aeroplan 90,000 miles 155,000 miles
United MileagePlus 80,000 miles 180,000 miles
Singapore KrisFlyer 110,000 miles (doesn’t apply to Singapore-operated flights) 195,000 miles

Note that these same economy award rates for the first four programs would apply to Singapore-operated flights.

While Avianca LifeMiles flew under the radar until late last year, it’s now a great consideration for a few reasons. Not only does it offer some of the lowest mileage rates of any Star Alliance programs, but it doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges for partner award flights. Add in the multitude of transfer options (including Amex and Capital One) and there’s a lot of value to be had.

If, on the other hand, you wanted to use KrisFlyer miles to book Singapore-operated flights from the US, here’s how much you’d need to redeem (the lower amount is for West Coast departures, the higher for East Coast ones):

  • Economy: 76,000 – 80,000 miles
  • Premium Economy: 136,000 – 146,000 miles
  • Business: 190,000 – 198,000 miles
  • First/Suites: 260,000 – 264,000 miles

Bear in mind too that you can waitlist for a better award through KrisFlyer if your desired itinerary isn’t available at the time of booking, so that (coupled with the aforementioned premium cabin restriction) may make Singapore’s program a viable booking option.

Cathay Pacific Sweet Spots

Cathay business class on a A350-1000. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)
Cathay Pacific’s A350-1000 business class would be a comfortable way to get (most of the way) to Bali from the US. (Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy)

 

If you were looking for a Oneworld option to get you to Bali, don’t be discouraged that Cathay Pacific is the only one on this list. There are plenty of great ways to book Cathay Pacific awards, including one of the best all around sweet spots out there. Cathay Pacific has an extensive and growing US route network, served by a mix of 777 and A350 aircraft.

Cathay Pacific’s premium cabins get rave reviews thanks to consistently excellent service, delicious food and spacious, well-designed seats. If you’re looking to try one of them out for yourself, there’s no better way to do so than with Alaska Airline miles. At 1.8 cents each, TPG considers these the most valuable of any airline currency, and for good reason. Alaska’s partner award chart for Cathay Pacific is incredibly generous, and you can build in a free stopover in Hong Kong (even on one-way tickets). Here are the prices for one-way awards from the US to Bali:

East Coast

70,000 miles for a first class ticket that often sells for close to $20,000 is an amazing deal, but after Cathay’s decision to honor its New Year’s mistake fare, you might have a tougher time finding first class award space. In addition, these awards don’t show up on Alaska’s website, so you’ll need to use a different Oneworld search engine (like British Airways’ site) and call Alaska to book. Even if you can’t snag seats at the very front of the cabin, you can’t go wrong with a 50,000-mile business class ticket, especially when it includes a free stopover in Hong Kong (HKG) on the way.

Alaska miles are relatively hard to earn, but even if you don’t have enough to get to Bali, you have two other decent options for booking these Cathay Pacific awards. The first would be using American AAdvantage miles at the following rates for a one-way award:

  • Economy: 37,500 miles
  • Business: 70,000 miles
  • First: 110,000 miles

You could also turn to Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program. While it uses a distance-based award chart, all flights from the US to Bali will fall into the 7,500 mile+ “Ultra-Long” price category. Economy flights aren’t that bad at 42,000 miles each way, but premium cabins do start to get a bit more expensive here.

Marriott

Thankfully booking Cathay Pacific-operated flights through Asia Miles should avoid some of the issues that come up for partner airlines when using the program’s new online search engine.

SkyTeam Troubles

SkyTeam’s two most popular loyalty programs, Delta SkyMiles and Flying Blue (from Air France / KLM) have both lost a ton of consistency in recent years as they switched from a fixed, published award chart to variable or “dynamic” pricing. This has, of course, led to effective increases in premium cabin award prices. As an example, one-way business class awards from Los Angeles (LAX) to Bali through Flying Blue price out at anywhere from 93,000 miles to a whopping 500,000.

New Year's Day

Economy awards are much better, pricing out relatively consistently at 37,500 miles each way, but this variability makes it hard to talk about SkyTeam awards in general terms. You need specific dates and city pairs to have any idea what your options are.

The same problem is true for Delta, as the carrier hasn’t published award charts since 2015. While partner flights should still price at a flat amount, the only way to know how much is to search. If Delta.com isn’t giving you any solid options, you may want to try searching for flights by segment (i.e US to Asia, Asia to Bali) and then call Delta to try booking them on a single itinerary. If both segments are pricing out at the lowest possible rates, this might work, but it’s gotten much harder to do this in recent years, so I wouldn’t rely on this option. You can check out this guide for more details on Delta’s award pricing and routing rules.

West Coast
Korean Air’s fantastic first class on the 747-8 is one of the most comfortable and enjoyable ways to start (or end) your journey to Bali, though booking it using points isn’t easy.

Of the SkyTeam carriers that fly to Bali, Korean Air stands out as offering both the best onboard product and the best award rates. Unfortunately since Chase dropped Korean as a transfer partner, the only way to earn SKYPASS miles is by transferring points from Marriott at a 3:1 ratio (with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred). Korean Air does use a peak and off-peak pricing system, but most of the year is considered off-peak (with the exception of two months of the summer and a few weeks in December). The chart below shows the off-peak, one-way award rates from the US to Bali along with the number of Marriott points you’d need to transfer to earn that many SKYPASS miles:

Korean Air Miles needed Marriott points to transfer
Economy 42,500 miles 114,000 points
Business 75,000 miles 180,000 points
First 95,000 miles 240,000 points

These are massive amounts of Marriott points to burn for one-way award tickets, and I generally prefer using Marriott points for hotel stays, especially with the limited-time ability to book top-tier, Category 8 properties for only 60,000 points a night. That being said, transferring to Korean Air can be an incredible value, especially if you’re able to book a first class award on the carrier’s 747-8. Depending on where in the US you’re originating, Korean Air flies a mix of 747-8, 777, 787 and A380 aircraft. You’re also allowed to build in a stopover in Seoul (ICN) even on one-way award tickets, meaning you can visit two cities for the price of one.

Bottom Line

Despite an intense and growing tourist demand, Bali is not as easy to get to as some nearby Asian destinations. That being said, if you’re flexible with your travel dates and utilize a combination of different transferable points currencies, you should be able to find a couple of decent options spanning the three major alliances to get there with just a single stop.

Featured photo courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Bali.

Asia

Thanks

Southwest fanatics listen up! With this targeted offer, you may be eligible to participate in a status challenge to earn A-List status with Southwest through the end of 2019.

With A-List status, you’ll get perks like priority check-in, free same-day standby, and priority boarding. And with this particular offer, you’ll get A-List status through the end of May 2019, just for signing up!

If you aren’t targeted for this offer you could perks, like 4 upgraded boardings a year with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card.

Here’s how to figure out whether you’re targeted and what you need to know about the status challenge.  And if you don’t want to miss out on other deals like this one, be sure to subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Instagram
Southwest A-List Status for a Just Few Clicks of a Button? Yes Please!

Targeted Southwest Status Challenge

Southwest is offering an A-List challenge for some flyers and with it, you can earn A-List status through May 31, 2019, just for registering.  And you’ll get your status extended through the end of the year if you meet these two requirements by the same May 31, 2019, date:

  • Fly three round-trips
  • Earn 8,750 tier qualifying points

Just log in to your Southwest account to see if you’re eligible.

Normally, you’ll need to fly 25 qualifying one-way flights or earn 35,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year to earn A-List status. So if you’re eligible, this is a fantastic way to earn status with far fewer requirements.

If you want to stay on top of other miles & points deals, then subscribe to our newsletter.  And be sure to follow us on Instagram!  

Southwest Instagram Southwest
Instagram

Thanks !

If you’ve got an AMEX card that offers a yearly airline incidental fee credit, like The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, or American Express® Gold Card, this news might sting a little.

Although it’s excluded from AMEX’s terms, many folks have had success getting gift cards from certain airlines to trigger the credit, including American Airlines.

Reports have been swirling online for the past week that American Airlines gift card purchases have changed in the way they were coded with AMEX.  Now, after some experimentation over at TPG, it seems this is indeed the case and American Airlines gift cards are no longer being reimbursed.

airline
American Airlines Gift Cards No Longer Trigger the AMEX Airline Fee Credit on Certain American Express Cards

Here’s more about this development and what your options are if American is your selected airline.

AMEX Airline Fee Credit Changes for American Airlines Gift Cards

AMEX offers an airline fee credit on your selected airline every calendar year with the following cards:

The information for the Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets.  The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

These credits are meant to be used for airline incidental fees, NOT airfare, award tickets, or points purchases.  American Express also specifically excludes gift cards from the list, but in practice, gift card purchases in smaller denominations from American Airlines, Delta, and Southwest have triggered the credit.  This has been an easy way to offset the annual fee cost on these cards.

airline incidental credit
I Purchased American Airlines Gift Cards With My AMEX Hilton Aspire in Late December and Got My Airline Fee Credit Within a Few Days

That’s recently changed for American Airlines gift card purchases.  They’re now coding as gift certificates instead of “miscellaneous taxes and fees” (as shown above), and as such are no longer being reimbursed.

This isn’t great news for folks who have American Airlines as their selected airline and haven’t used their credit yet for 2019 (myself included).  It also makes you wonder if Delta and Southwest aren’t soon to follow suit – so if either is your selected airline and gift cards are on your radar, it’d be wise to buy them as soon as you can.  Here’s more on how that works.

What Are Your Options If American Airlines Is Your Selected Airline?

You’re not totally out of luck if American is your selected airline for 2019.  You can still redeem your AMEX airline fee credit for lots of things, including:

  • Checked baggage fees (including overweight/oversize fees)
  • Itinerary change fees
  • Phone reservation fees
  • Pet flight fees
  • Seat assignment fees
  • In-flight amenity fees (beverages, food, pillows/blankets, headphones)
  • In-flight entertainment fees (excluding wireless internet because it’s not charged by the airline)
  • Airport lounge day passes & annual memberships

For example, if you’re facing a long flight, you could splurge for Main Cabin Extra seats (more legroom, preferred boarding, free adult beverages) without guilt.  Or treat yourself to an Admirals Club airport lounge visit ($59 for a day pass) and enjoy a more comfy airport experience.

American Airlines
You Could Use Your AMEX Airline Fee Credit for Admirals Lounge Airport Lounge Passes and Relax Away From the Busy Terminal

And, while you’re technically only able to change your selected airline once a year between January 1 and January 31, there are lots of reports online and from MMS readers and team members that AMEX might change your airline at other times if you call / message and ask.  The worst they can say is no – so it’s absolutely worth a try.  😉

Bottom Line

Even though they weren’t supposed to, American Airlines gift cards had been triggering the annual AMEX airline fee credit on cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum® Card from American Express, or American Express® Gold Card until recently.  But this no longer works.

Anecdotally, that leaves Delta (only when purchased through the desktop site, NOT mobile) and Southwest as your only gift card options, as long as they’re your selected airline.  Here’s more on what works for AMEX incidental fee credits.

Let us know in the comments if this change affects you and what your plans are going forward.

(Hat Tip:  TPG)

Hilton Honors Aspire Card Selected Airline airline
airline incidental credit