Monday, February 28, 2011

Crosswords - things that make you go "hmm"

I was doing a crossword the other day. One clue was "Saying: Up the ____" (four letters). Now from the other clues I knew that the word was "A__E" (i.e. two letters between the "A" and the "E"). At this stage I should refer my American readers to footnotes (1) and (2).

There were no other clues - the other two letters did not connect to any other words.

Quite frankly, I think my answer was at least as valid as the one from the crossword setter. I mean, is "Up the ante" really as common as my answer? I think not.


(1) Unlike American crosswords, British and Australian crosswords do not necessarily have both an "up" and a "down" clue to cover each square.

(2) The British/Australian word for "ass" is "arse".

Cheap premium class flights between Australia and Europe (or vice versa)

US Airways currently has a deal where they will give a 75% bonus for any miles purchased in their frequent flyer scheme (up to 50,000 purchased miles). Now, I'll admit this sounds ho hum since (1) US Airways don't fly to Oz, and (2) they are a crappy airline. They are however part of the Star Alliance, which is where it gets interesting.

Executive summary:

Buy 50,000 miles for US$1,375 and get a bonus of 37,500 miles = 87,500 miles
Buy 50,000 miles for US$1,375 with no bonus
Buy 13,000 miles for US$357.50 with no bonus

That makes 150,500 miles for US$3,017.50.

150,000 miles gets a return Oz-Europe (or vice versa) in First Class on Star Alliance. So given the strong A$, that's First Class to Europe for around $3,000 (+taxes of course).

If you want to slum it in Business Class the total cost would be US$2,282.50. I doubt if you could even get Economy on QF for that.


Now availability is the next issue. I threw in some random dates and even less than 2 months out I was seeing pretty good availability on Thai Airways, which I have it on good authority has an outstanding First Class product. You certainly can't book that close to departure on Qantas or BA, which typically need booking nearly a year ahead for award bookings in the premium classes to Europe.

The purchasing bonus deal runs until the end of March. You need a US Airways frequent flyer account, but that's free and done online. The account needs to be open for at least 12 days before you can make the purchase (no idea why).

I haven't checked award availability during school holidays - I imagine it's not very good. (the Air Canada frequent flyer scheme) allows you to search for Star Alliance awards. You don't need to join to do searches. has all the details about the purchasing bonus, but you can't search for availability there.

Contact me if you want more info.