Archive for November, 2008
Earlier this month Frankenmeg wrote to me and said, “I would be interested in knowing how you come up with routes to earn the most miles… and spending the least.” Two good questions!
Since I do all of my mileage runs (MRs) on American Airlines, I’ll focus on AA and its website.
My first suggestion to anyone who wants to do mileage runs is to visit FlyerTalk, one of the finest travel sites on the web. You’ll find forums where you can get information about the major airlines, hotel chains, car rental companies, restaurants, and places to visit around the world. FlyerTalk and its members, I call them the FT Experts, are an incredible resource that I have used many times to get advice when traveling. Best of all, there is no charge to use FlyerTalk!
Anyone interested in doing mileage runs should start at FlyerTalk’s Mileage Run Forum: in my opinion, this is the greatest source of mileage run information anywhere on the web. There is a Mileage Run Discussion forum: I suggest that you start by reading the two “stickys” at the top of the forum, entitled Mileage Run Tools Update and Mileage Run Tools, Part 2. These areas will give you a fabulous education on how to become a successful mileage runner. It provided me with my introduction into the world of mileage runs.
The Mileage Run Deals forum features deals that FlyerTalk members (FTers) have found that I probably would have otherwise missed, so it is a great source. Sometimes you will see an MR from your airport but on a different airline; if so, take a moment to see if your airline will match.
After reviewing what’s new on FlyterTalk, I check the cost for a ticket to either Portland or Seattle, those are the two most distant locations I can fly to in the lower 48 states. Sometimes there will be some good deals, sometimes not. What makes it a good deal? I explained that in a previous post.
Sometimes I will use the multi-city feature on the AA.com website to see if I can add miles to a trip without adding cost. For example, instead of looking for the price for Austin-Seattle, I’ll check Austin-Chicago-Seattle. For the return trip I may try Seattle-Los Angeles-Austin rather than a direct route. Sometimes that works, sometimes it does not.
If an airline has launched new service from Austin to another city and has a special sale price, I’ll check to see if AA is matching that price.
Other times I may just check some random routes, such as Austin-Chicago-Tampa, or Austin-Minneapolis-Denver.
Does it take time to find a good MR? Absolutely, but I find it to be well worth it!
Geting the best value for my miles
You can visit the AA website and see exactly how many miles it costs to get a free ticket using your AAdvantage miles. Some of those trips are a good deal, some are not.
I have a friend who travels a lot for work, going to Europe or the Orient every three weeks, and she has been doing this for years. She has flown over 3 million miles on AA and has more miles than she can ever spend. This gentleman is in the same situation. For these people, any deal is a good deal because they have so many miles that they basically have no value.
I am not in the category, I do very little business travel, so my miles are very valuable to me and I must try to get the best value I can for them.
My last mileage run was to Portland, I earned almost 11,000 miles and paid approximately two cents per mile. That was a good deal. What about spending those miles?
Let’s say I want to take a trip to New York City. I just checked AA.com and saw that a r/t coach ticket to NYC in January, non-refundable fare, would cost $300. If I want so use miles I can use 25,000 miles for that trip if MileSAAver seats are available. If MileSAAver seats are not available the trip will cost 50,000 miles.
Let’s say I can get the 25,000 mile ticket. My calculator tells me that AA is only giving me 1.2 cents for my miles ($300/25,000). I earned the miles at two cents or more, but am only getting 1.2 cents value for them. This is NOT a good deal.
Let’s try another trip, using AA’s international travel partners. Let’s say I want to fly Business Class to Bangkok, taking Cathay Pacific from Los Angeles to Bangkok and back. (My wife and I did this trip in 2007.) I found that ticket with a March 2009 itinerary for $10,951, or 110,000 AAdnantage miles. On that ticket, they are giving me almost 10 cents value for each mile ($10,951/110,000). So, with my MRs, I am earning miles at two cents each, but get amost 10 cents each in credit for them. Is this a good deal? Absolutely!
So, what is the best value for your miles? It all depends on how many miles you have and where you plan to go.
The front cover of the November 2008 edition of Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel magazine highlights articles about 7 legendary surf town, vacation rentals and “How to Start a Travel Blog.”
The blog article, entitled “Blogger on Board” features suggestions from the editors of 8 travel blogs on how you can start your own site. I am happy to say that Happy Flier was one of the eight blogs recognized by Budget Travel!
It’s a short article, but does include many valuable tips. I hope you will take a moment to read it, and also visit the other blogs that are listed.
This continues to be a challenging time for the airline industry, but American Airlines is moving forward as it plans for better days to come.
First, the bad news. During the 3rd quarter FY 2008, American lost $360 million. But, a one-time $432 million gain from the sale of American Beacon Advisors and a $27 million one-time charge for employee severance and aircraft expenses, helped American’s parent company, AMR Corporation, to post a profit of $45 million. How impressive is that? Southwest Airlines, which had turned a profit during every quarter since 1991, lost $120 million during the same period. United Airlines lost $252 million, Delta lost $50 million, and US Airways lost $865 million.
During the quarter, American paid $3.57 for a gallon of fuel, up 64 percent from the $2.17 it paid a year ago. As fuel costs continue to drop (now at $67 a barrel, down from $145 a barrel during the summer), the outlook for the airlines should brighten.
American’s management apparently sees a brighter future; American announced that it will purchase 42 of Boeing’s new 787-9 Dreamliners. Delivery will start in 2012 and run through 2018, with American holding an option to purchase 50 additional 787s. With this announcement, American made a crucial decision for the future of the airline.
The two largest manufacturers of commercial aircraft are Boeing and Airbus. The two companies have taken a decidedly different approach to the future of air travel. Airbus is going with its mammoth A-380, the world’s largest commercial aircraft. The double-deck A-380 can seat up to 525 passengers. However, it is so large (its wingspan is 48 feet wider than the Boeing 747) that some airports cannot handle it: it is too wide and too heavy. However, most major international airports, (JFK, London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Sydney, Tokyo, etc) will be able to handle this behemoth. As of September 2008, Airbus has already delivered the first aircraft to Singapore Airlines, Emirates, and Qantas. Airbus has taken orders for 192 A-380s, and has delivered 8.
Boeing decided that the future of aircraft is in the smaller 787 Dreamliner that will seat 210-250 passengers, and have a range of 14,000-15,000 km (8,700-9,300 miles). The 787 is made of composite materials, is highly fuel efficient compared to any aircraft currently flying, and will be able to fly into almost any airport without the need for airport modifications. The 787 is already one of the most successful aircraft in history: Boeing has taken orders for more than 920 of the aircraft, orders totaling more than $110 billion!
There is only one problem: none of them have ever flown! Boeing sold all of these aircraft before the first one even rolled out of the factory! As of this date, they have not yet had the first test flight of the 787 and are substantially behind schedule on manufacturing the plane. A strike by Boeing machinists has not helped, closing all Boeing factories for eight weeks. The strike was settled this weekend and the production lines should be up and running by the middle of this week. Hopefully, the first 787 test flight will take place in 2009.
So, the two manufacturers have a different view of the future of flight, and American has decided that the smaller 787 Dreamliner is their future. Hopefully, the deliveries actually will start in 2012.
American also announced that it will accept delivery of 76 Boeing 737-800 aircraft in 2009 and 2010. These aircarft will replace the aging MD-80s. The 737s get 20-30% better fuel mileage than the MD-80, and as a newer aircraft, will be easier to maintain. (Some of the MD-80s have been flying since 1982!) The purchase is a good start, American currently flies over 300 MD-80s, so there is still a long way to go.
American has the second oldest fleet of aircraft among the top 10 US carriers. These purchases show that AA is serious about modernizing.
In other news
American has always given its AAdvantage members a minimum of 500 miles for each flight, regardless of how short it is. So, even though my Austin-DFW flight is only 183 miles, I have received 500 for the flight. American has announced that effective January 1, 2009, only AAdvantage members with elite status (Gold, Platinum, Executive Platinum) will receive that bonus. All other passengers will earn only the actual mileage.
A few years ago, passengers, regardless of status, could earn 1,000 miles for making a reservation online at AA.com. With that bonus, a passenger taking a round-trip flight between Austin and DFW would earn 2,000 miles (500 for each flight, and the online bonus). Now the online bonus is gone, and so is the 500 mile minimum award. A non-elite passenger making the trip now will earn 366 miles (183 per flight), a drop of 82%. And to make it worse, they won’t even get the small bag of free peanuts. Oh well, at least they can look forward to flying on new 737s in the future!