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No Amex Platinum retention bonus for you!

Well, I just had my $550 Amex Platinum annual fee hit my account. I'd read online that people were getting retention bonus offers so I thought I'd give them a call and see what they said. Long story short: they're giving people 50,000 point retention bonuses since Covid has really negated most of the card's perks, but because they gave me a retention bonus last August , I'm not eligible. Furthermore, they told me if I canceled or downgraded the card, I'd forfeit those 50,000 points since they were considered a "bonus for keeping the card for a whole year". Well, you win some, you lose some.

Getting our Australia tickets refunded

In early January we bought tickets for an April trip to Australia through American Express Travel. With all of the Covid-19 lockdowns around the globe, it slowly became clear our trip wasn't going to happen. Given that half the planet was trying to call in and cancel or move their trips, I decided to wait until about a week before my trip was scheduled to begin. Amex's phone lines were an absolute mess. I waited over an hour only to be disconnected. Twice. I tried using their web chat client and the people staffing it weren't allowed to do any kind of booking-related changes. I was starting to get nervous because Qatar was still operating a few of its flights but I knew Australia had closed its borders . I was afraid that if Qatar didn't actually cancel the flight, I'd be on the hook for it and not get my money back. At some point I noticed that my email confirmation had an entirely different phone number to call than the website. I'd been calling 1-800-297-

NEWS: Australia closes its borders to visitors

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Got some sad Covid-19 news from Australia last night: they're closing the borders to incoming visitors . Earlier in the week, they'd already banned Australians from traveling abroad, but this latest move was somewhat unexpected given the government's statements to the contrary earlier in the day . I've not written much about our impending Australia travel largely due to the risk that this could happen. Obviously there are people with much bigger problems than us, but it's hearbreaking to know that our friend who wanted to weather the quarantine with us has to do so by himself now. I can handle my own loneliness just fine, but knowing he's hurting and lonely is really fucking tough for us. I now have the lovely pleasure of another six hours of holding for Amex Travel to actually try and cancel my tickets. Can I just say, they're utterly unprepared and that their handling of this crisis has been an unmitigated disaster?

JetBlue carbon-offsetting all flights!

Some great news from JetBlue today – they're expanding their existing partnership with Carbonfund.org to offset the CO2 emissions from all of their domestic flights. The new initiative – comprised of forestry, landfill gas capture, and solar and wind power – will mean offsetting 7 – 8 metric tons of CO2 per year. Futhermore, they're going to start flying with sustainable jet fuel from Neste on flights out of SFO mid-2020.

Pay-to-plug coming soon to a flight near you

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Runway Girl Network has an… interesting/alarming/promising story about a new development in airline interiors – soon airlines will be able to charge you for using the at-seat power plugs . It's just the next terrible addition to the nickle-and-diming price structure that airlines seem to be in love with these days. But given the horrible direction airlines are taking their Economy and domestic First cabins ( removing all seatback entertainment , shoving in extra rows, shrinking toilets , etc) I guess the only thing left to say here is, "Welp, I guess I prefer a pay-to-plug seat over one with no power at all…" ( Quick sidebar here: can I just say how much I love that JetBlue has bucked this terrible trend? They're actually installing larger screens in Economy and they have blazing-fast, free Wi-Fi ). Oh but the horrors don't end there: a related invention from KID-Systeme has circuitry in the plug itself to let you charge for free in exchange for watchi

A great way to shrink your carbon footprint

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I fly a lot and yet I absolutely care about the environment. I try to stay big picture and know that my decision to live car-free in a big city and not have children puts me well below the national CO 2 average, but still, my flying definitely makes me look for ways I can do more. When we lived in San Francisco, we installed solar panels on our condominium's roof and had CO 2 -free power helping to shrink our footprint. But here in New York that just wasn't an option until last year. Out solar roof install in the heart of San Francisco Community Solar lets apartment and condo dwellers have solar panels someplace other than where they live . New York recently passed laws enabling it, but it’s taken some time to figure out the right way to make it appealing and accessible to urban dwellers. ( California, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Minnesota all have Community Solar programs, but this is my first-hand experience with New York's ). The simplest approach – where y

How to beat the JFK AirTrain price hike

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The already-expensive AirTrain to JFK is getting a steep price hike from $5 to $7.75 effective November 1st. (To quote a visiting friend, "there's not much public about your public transportation, is there?"). They're also raising the Uber/Lyft surcharge at the same time. For years you've been able to buy a 10-ride pass for $25 – half off the $5 fare. The card can be used 4 times in rapid succession before it triggers an 18-minute waiting period, so it's feasible to use one card for groups of 4 or fewer. Unfortunately, according to 2nd Avenue Sagas and commenters on Streetsblog , the MTA is drastically shortening the 10-ride Metrocard's validity period down to one month in lieu of hiking the price to $38.75. The official meeting notes are here , but there's no word on what happens after the switchover if you have an already-activated card with say, 5 months remaining on it. Since "affordable fares for airport workers" is the general