As my first post about this Frequent Flyer hustle I’ve gotten myself into the past few months, what better way than to explain how I booked a surprise birthday trip for Joann 2 days before departure? This is just a quick overview of the process & a mini trip report. Sorry but since it’s my first post about this whole gig, it’s going to be long.
First let me start out by explaining how I came into the abundance of Delta SkyMiles & Silver Medallion elite status. Basically I parlayed the following:
http://goo.gl/J9V7w: I bought about $1000 worth of SpaFinder gift certs and sold most of them on eBay, make my net cost $220. This gave me 40,000 miles.
http://goo.gl/Z90Wq: I used some Amex MR points I had from a sign-up bonus to transfer to Delta, and this gave me a 50% mileage bonus along with Silver Medallion elite status.
Now I would be poised to find low-tier (25,000 miles) award flights to Miami for Joann’s birthday.
As you have read from one of the travel gurus, low tier Delta awards are a b*tch to find [http://goo.gl/eHfyI], but with a little work and knowledge of routing, it’s not impossbile. Delta’s only direct service to MIA from NYC is from JFK but we prefer EWR since it’s more convenient to access. So flying nonstop was out of the question. The trip would have to go through ATL, Delta’s main hub/HQ.
Using TPG’s one-way search methods, I found several 25,000 mile segments from EWR-ATL and then ATL-MIA and reverse. It was pretty simple to do and the whole process took less than an hour of my time. I booked the flights that would leave us with 2-3 hour layovers because, well, we’ve all flown Delta before so we know what they’re capable of (read: delays). Also, Delta & Amex are having a promotion in which they give you a 300 point voucher just for checking into their Sky Clubs with the Amex Platinum card. With 3 hours to kill at ATL and 8 Delta Sky Clubs, you know what we did…
[S/O to Joann for trekking through 8 concourses and 10 Sky Clubs with me!]
Fast forward through the weekend and a wonderful time in Miami (maybe I’ll write about that one in a subsequent post), this is the main thing I’ve learned from my frequent travel in the past few weeks:
Airline elite status, even lowly Silver, is still better than nothing.
Just boarding before incompetent and inconsiderate people is worth it to me. I can’t tell you how many people got to their rows, decided they needed to rummage through their bags, and then slowly put the bag into the overhead… all the while blocking the rest of the passengers from continuing to board the plane. No wonder it takes over 30 minutes to board a small aircraft.
Our first flight of the day, EWR-ATL, was delayed 3 hours and when I got to the agent in the EWR Sky Club, she informed me that we were already rebooked with confirmed seats on the next flight out and our original seats were still confirmed in case the plane miraculously appeared on time. A woman from our same flight who was guested into the Sky Club and did not have status, had to standby for the flight that we were automatically confirmed on. After boarding the next flight out, we found out our original flight was cancelled.
From these 2 points alone, I will gladly make an effort to keep Silver status on my major airlines.
Another bonus is that as a lowly Silver on Delta, you are able to select the coveted Exit Row seats, which I did for all 4 of our flights. Leg room is king for me so this is a huge bonus. We even found that the legroom in the smaller MD88 & D95 planes was even greater than in the bigger 737. I wish CO would release Exit Row seating to their Silvers sooner than 24 hours before departure.
So for 50,000 miles and only $15 in fees (CO, UA, AA, et al charge for “close-in” awards, usually when booked under 21 days out), Joann and I had an awesome birthday weekend in South Beach on very short notice! With so much money saved, we had enough for 2 amazing dinners at an up and coming foodie spot and also a local classic (reviews to come).
You don’t have to fly frequently to enjoy the benefits of frequent flying! I could get used to this life…
BONUS: Here are some shots of the Sky Clubs we visited