United Allegedly Runs Out Of Toilet Paper During International Flight

We’ve heard of flights running out of sugar, snacks and even fuel – but never have we ever known a flight to run out of toilet paper. That’s what happened on board a recent flight from London to San Francisco, when United Airlines allegedly forgot to re-stock the plane’s supply of toilet paper.

According to an account posted to FlyerTalk.com, it seems some creative flight attendants put together a pocket to hold some cocktail napkins, so passengers who had to use the loo weren’t left completely stranded in the bathroom.

Although we’ve heard some crazy schemes for reducing the weight of aircraft to save on fuel – like how Spirit Airlines recently started serving wine in cans – we hope airlines overstock toilet paper on long-haul flights so more passengers don’t have to rely on cocktail napkins in the future. It would be crazy to not be able to count on toilet paper being provided with the cost of an airline ticket, but in the age of add-on fees, who knows what can happen?

Update: A spokesperson from United contacted Gadling to assure us that fewer than half of the lavatories on the flight ran out of toilet paper.

Bloggers v. The Community In The Great Mileage War

There’s a lively discussion going on among feisty members of the MilesBuzz! forum on Flyertalk about a blogger’s role in the mileage and airfare deal community.

At issue is a group of bloggers who have been scouring the forums at sites such as theirs, identifying the best deals and then publishing the information in their blogs. Built for a wider audience, the blogs bring enormous traffic, often leading to a change in terms or cancellation of the deals.

Think of it like a trampoline. If two or three people discover the trampoline and take a jump, everyone has a good time. But if the entire town is invited, the trampoline breaks.

As an example, a recent loophole discovered by members of the forum found that prepaid spending cards could be loaded for no fee with a credit card, meaning one could charge two thousand dollars to a prepaid card, earn reward points and then pay off everything with no fee. The result was a way to effectively earn points for free, something that any budget traveler would swoon for.

Once the blog community caught wind of the deal, however, the financial companies got wise and changed their terms. Members of Flyertalk were enraged.

Further inflaming the situation is the income that many of the bloggers are earning from their sites. A blogger can poach a deal from Flyertalk, several community members pointed out, earn thousands of hits to their site and then burden the reader with dozens of potentially profitable credit card ads. Each credit card application processed from a referral link could score the blogger up to $200. Need an example? Count the credit card ads here. With a popup blocker enabled, I still count 20. Another blogger meticulously shows that with credit card offers he can make about $4000/month in extra income.

On the other side of the coin, bloggers point out that they do a service to the masses by distilling complex info into a simple, easy to read format. But are they putting their pocket books in front of the community?

It’s a grey area. On one hand it seems that the credit card companies have so much influence over the bloggers that they’ll post anything that they think will drive traffic. But on the other hand, public data is public data, and if they want to do the work to build the articles then traffic should dictate success. Whether they can do it with class is up to each blogger respectively. My guess is that when the axe man (ie FTC) comes calling all dues will be paid.

[Flickr image: sfbaywalk]

Earn free frequent flyer miles by purchasing dollar coins

Rewards credit cards are a great way to earn a few percent cash back or frequent flyer miles for everyday purchases, but they’re geared against the consumer’s rate of purchase — the more you spend, the more rewards you earn.

Intrinsically this concept conflicts with the budget traveler. Sure, 2 miles for every dollar spent would be great, but few people spend enough money each month to make the miles worthwhile. If one spends 300 dollars and earns 600 miles per month, for example, it would take 41 months to save enough for a free flight on most airlines.

But a few savvy consumers have learned to game the system, all courtesy of the US mint. On their website, the mint advertises free shipping for over $500 in purchases of presidential $1 coins — at cost. This means that a user can show up at their online store, purchase $1000 worth of dollar coins on their rewards card and have them shipped to their front door for free. A quick walk to the bank puts that money back into circulation (hopefully for the payment of one’s credit card bill) and the user emerges a few miles richer. At that point, the user can repeat the cycle.

Sounds like a cash advance, right? Sort of, but mileage hounds have found that the neither the credit cards nor the IRS view it in that way, so they’re still buying dollar coins and reaping the rewards.

As to any impact on one’s credit score or the value of carrying 20lb boxes to the bank every day, the jury is still out, but for those with time and a bit of financial flexibility it seems like a great trick to earn miles.

You can read more details and extensive discussion over at Flyertalk and Milepoint.

MilePoint opens to the public – and gives away one free iPad 2 a day for a month

Last month, we mentioned the (beta) opening of new frequent flier forum MilePoint. Now all the bugs have been fixed, the board has finally opened for anyone to join.

The forum has been chugging along nicely for well over a month, and has already attracted over 8000 members who have posted over 200,000 articles – not a bad start for a brand new site.

Of course, new sites like this pop up quite regularly – so the site owners have created a very generous opening promotion by giving away one free iPad 2 every single day till the end of March.

All you have to do to be eligible for winning is sign up and make your first post. If you win, Randy Petersen will announce your name in this thread.

Mileage runs, Flyertalk and obsessive compulsive flying: a film project

Those who are remotely close to airline world have probably heard the term “mileage running” or have listened to a brief tirade about upgrades or lounge access at some point — and many of you have probably tuned it out.

For those of you genuinely curious about the industry and those who try to work the system, however, Gabriel Leigh put together a pretty good documentary for his Master’s thesis on how milking the process works, the costs, benefits and some of the personalities therein.

You might recognize a few of the interviewees — Steve Belkin is the founder of Competitours, Randy Petersen founded Flyertalk and those fingers holding the small airplane models? Brett Snyder’s, from The Cranky Flier and the The Cranky Concierge.

Irrespective of whether you subscribe to the content or not, the filmography is excellent and is worth watching alone. If you make it through the entire 20 minute video, let us know in the comments whether it strikes you as vain or savvy. I still don’t know myself.

Frequent Flyer from Gabriel Leigh.