By Chris C., November 7 2014

Are you sitting on a pile of US Airways Dividend Miles that can be swapped for business and first class flights on Qantas, Cathay Pacific and across Oneworld, but are worried what will happen to them during the US/AA merger?

Or, are you a few points short of a free Qantas flight or upgrade and want to use cash to get yourself over the line?

That’s all in this week’s round-up, along with photos of the newly-renovated Al Reem lounge at Abu Dhabi International Airport for Virgin Australia Velocity and Etihad Guest Gold members, plus how to earn 15% more points on your credit card spend this month.

To wrap things up, we’ve got an exclusive interview with United Airlines’ SVP Worldwide Sales on whether the oft-discussed ‘buying miles’ trick benefits or hinders the airline, and show how Starwood Preferred Guest members can now use their Apple or Android smartphone as a room key.

Qantas considers 'points + pay' auction for upgrades

If you don’t have enough points to upgrade to business class on your next flight, you may just be able to snag a better seat through using a combination of cash and frequent flyer points.

The scheme, recently outlined in focus groups conducted by the airline, would apply to both domestic and international flights.

Our source reveals that importantly, passengers who had made a bid “would be advised if successful a few hours after Qantas advises those who requested upgrades through the normal system.”

Read more: Qantas considers 'points + pay' auction for upgrades

Al Reem lounge in Abu Dhabi reopens for Virgin Australia Velocity members

Following extensive renovations to the Al Reem lounge in Abu Dhabi International Airport, Aussie travellers are now welcome to return.

Spanning three storeys of Terminal 1 and open 24/7, the new lounge gives business travellers free Wi-Fi and is filled with AC and USB power ports for recharging devices on the go.

The Al Reem lounge is open to Virgin Australia Velocity Gold and Etihad Guest Gold members flying in economy with either airline, plus Priority Pass members travelling with any carrier.

Read more: Al Reem lounge in Abu Dhabi reopens

15% bonus on Virgin Australia Velocity credit card points

Virgin Australia is dishing out 15% more Velocity Frequent Flyer points on credit card transfers this month, which could take you to your next free flight or business class upgrade even sooner.

The deal gets even sweeter if you're sitting on a solid pile of credit card points – transfer them to Velocity now and you'll earn that 15% bonus on the lot.

But not every bank is on board – it's available only with American Express Membership Rewards, ANZ, Westpac, St. George, Bank of Melbourne and Bank SA.

See how it’s done: Earn 15% more Velocity points on credit card spend

Buying United miles is good for business

Buying airline miles to redeem for low-cost travel in business class, and sometimes even first class, is a favourite money-saving trick of the savviest frequent flyers.

But does that have an impact on commercial ticket sales, and ultimately an airline’s likelihood to offer similar promotions in the future?

We sat down with Dave Hilfman, United’s Senior Vice President Worldwide Sales, to find out more.

Read: United Airlines exec – buying miles is good for business

AA, US Airways merger: what it means if you’ve bought miles

With American Airlines and US Airways merging their frequent flyer programs as of next year, what does this mean if you've bought miles on either airline?

It’s been revealed that Dividend Miles balances will be converted to American's AAdvantage miles in the second quarter of next year, at which time a number of flight redemptions will cost less than they do today.

When the switcheroo takes place, the number of miles needed for many business class awards today will actually land you a seat up the very front in first class seat.

Read more: What the US/AA merger means for mileage buyers

Starwood kicks off mobile phone hotel room keys

Starwood Preferred Guest members can now use their smartphone as a hotel room key at ten properties across Asia, the Middle East and North America, including the nearby W hotels in both Hong Kong and Singapore.

SPG Keyless enables guests to bypass the front desk by checking-in through the existing Starwood mobile app, before receiving their room number electronically and heading straight to their room.

The only catch? You’ll need to book the stay directly with Starwood – either through one of its websites, its customer contact centres or the SPG app itself – to swap your plastic key with a smartphone.

Set up your phone now: SPG kicks off mobile phone hotel room keys

Transferring Qantas Frequent Flyer points to family members

Qantas allows frequent flyers to transfer their points to family members, but while the process is relatively simple there are a few cautions and caveats.

Here's how it’s done, and the rules and transfer limits that you need to look out for.

Read more: How to transfer Qantas Frequent Flyer points to family members

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Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

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