Posts tagged Mileage Run
Next week I will take my final mileage run of 2008.
The mileage run (MR) will be the same one I did in mid-September, Austin-Chicago-Portland and back in one day. I leave at 6 a.m. and return around midnight. I’ll spend less than an hour in at the Portland airport and will earn almost 11,000 miles.
There are still two and a half months left in 2008, plenty of time to do additional MRs, but there is no reason for me to do this.
I have earned 64,000 EQMs for the year and have qualified for Platinum status for 2009. Unless my employer decides to send me on two trips to Beijing and back (highly unlikely since we do not do any business in China), there is no chance of me earning 100,000 EQMs and Executive Platinum status for next year.
So, unless an incredible bargain appears (highly unlikely during the Thanksgiving-Christmas time frame), my next MR will be the last for the year. I could spend $200-$300 on a flight in November and December, but it makes more sense to spend that money on flights after January 1, flights that will help me make Platinum again next year. So next week will be the final flight of the year.
It was a good year, featuring two international MRs, some trips to Portland and Seattle, and a vacation trip to Orlando with my wife. I have almost 115,000 more miles in my account now than I did in January, and have almost enough miles to cover the next trip to Asia for my wife and I are planning for next year.
I’ll keep looking for bargains, but it looks like next week will indeed be my last MR of 2008.
Hurricane Ike struck Texas this weekend with a savagery Texans had not seen in our lifetime. Millions of people are without power, thousands have had their homes destroyed, billions of dollars of damage took place. Our hearts go out to all those affected by this disaster. I want to share how I was affected, but in no way intend to compare my minor inconvenience to the tragedy that others have had. They are all in our thoughts and prayers. You can help them by making a donation to the American Red Cross.
Heavy rain at O’Hare made day into night: they had to turn on the lights at the airport even though it was 10 a.m. The rain delayed all air traffic into and out of Chicago. (click on photo for larger image)
We had a spectacular view of Mount St. Helens in the foreground, with Mount Ranier in the background. (click on photo for larger image)
In my last post, I talked about the prices for mileage runs, and how high they had become. Today I learned an important lesson: just because the price was high yesterday does not mean that it is high today!
I looked again at a mileage run to Portland, Oregon (PDX). Previously I found trips that cost as much as $800. I looked again today and found a MR to PDX in August for only $310. That’s 2.85 cents per mile: not great, but a lot better than I had recently found.
I changed the parameters to see what that trip would cost in September: the price dropped even more! I was able to buy AUS-ORD-PDX-ORD-AUS for only $240! I’ll earn over 10,000 miles and at 2.21 cents per mile, a good rate!
I don’t know why the price for a trip would drop from $800 to $310 to $240 in a matter of days. Perhaps AA saw that not enough people were willing to pay that higher price. Whatever the reason, I am glad I found this better deal!
I have not taken a mileage run since my since my May 10 trip to Seattle. For the first time in a very long time, I have no future reservations on American Airlines.
It’s never easy to do a mileage run in the summer. Traffic is high, planes are full, and fares are generally at their highest point of the year.
I looked at doing another trip to Seattle in August, and saw I could fly AUS-SEA for only $110. That is a great fare! The problem was the return fare: $239 for SEA-ORD-AUS, giving a total price of $380.50: 8,938 miles at 4.26 cents per mile. That is a terrible deal and I don’t book it.
I looked further and found what is, by today’s standards, a bargain. Round trip to Orange County, CA, (AUS-DFW-SNA-DFW-AUS) for a total price of $200: 6,820 total miles for 2.93 cents per mile.
In the past, I would never book a flight at almost 3 cents per mile. But times have changed, and this seems to be a bargain. I’ll have a 7 hour layover at SNA which gives me time to visit with my family, some of whom I have not seen in over 6 years. So, I booked the flight.
In the meantime, I’ll keep looking and hoping for some better deals.
One of the key factors to doing a mileage run is to get the lowest cost per mile possible. That is becoming increasingly difficult as the cost of air travel continues to rise.
I did a mileage run to Seattle on April 26, flying from Austin to Chicago to Seattle and back. I paid $215 for that ticket. The same flights on American Airlines on June 28 would cost $646. On July 19 the cost drops to $585. Neither of those is a good mileage run.
The cost of air travel always goes up at this time of year due to higher demand, but it is made worse this year by the airlines cutting back service and the steep rise in fuel costs.
I looked back through some old bank statements and saw that it cost $32 to fill my car with gas in May 2006. In May 2007 I paid $35. In May 2008 I paid $54. (And yes, I realize that my European readers think that is a bargain.) The airlines are faced with similar increases and have to pass that additional cost on to their passengers.
CNN.com reports that the American Automobile Association (AAA) predicts fewer Americans will travel this year during the Memorial Day holiday than last year, the first time that number has dropped since 2002. AAA says that fuel costs are 18% higher than last year, airplane tickets cost 8% more, and the cost of a mid-range hotel is 9% higher. The most amazing price increase is for a rental car: AAA says the average cost of a car rental will climb from $31 last year to $45 this year, a 45% increase.
“Many Americans are feeling a financial pinch this holiday weekend from record high gasoline prices and other factors,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet in a statement. “This spring, high gasoline prices appear to be dampening our society’s intent to travel.”
Travel bargains are still out there, but they are becoming increasingly difficult to find. I had been looking at AA Vacations, the American Airlines travel agency, for a trip to Mexico in September. The cost of a trip has gone up almost $300 in less than six weeks.
How does this affect the mileage runner? Obviously, it is more expensive to fly. I have to pay more to get my miles than I did a year ago. On the other hand, the number of miles needed to book a flight has not gone up. So, my old miles are worth more. I am however, pessimistic that there will be as many bargains later this year as there were in the past as long as the price for a barrel of oil remains above $120.
Saturday morning, May 10. Another early wake-up as I begin yet another mileage run to Seattle.
This is my 4th trip to Seattle since December, and yes, I am getting a bit tired of it. But there is no other city I can visit in the 48 states and earn as many miles as I can when I go to Seattle. So, I am off again to the great northwest.
After showering and eating a quick meal, I was on my way to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) at 4:15 a.m. Traffic was light and I made it to the terminal by 5 a.m.
Thankfully, it was not nearly as crowded as it was two weeks ago and I was able to quickly clear security.
My route for the day was Austin to Dallas to San Diego to Seattle to Chicago and back to Austin. Two weeks ago I had a 3-hour layover in Seattle which gave me time to relax and eat a meal. My longest layover on this trip would be one hour 20 minutes in Seattle. I’d be in trouble if one of my flights was delayed.
My first flight left Austin on time at 6:15. I slept all the way to Dallas. We landed at 7:15, and I had just enough time to grab a cup of coffee at the Admirals Club, take the train to terminal D, and then board my flight to San Diego.
We took off a few minutes late, and I quickly fell back to sleep. It was time to pay the price for getting up so early. Thankfully, I was able to sleep for an hour or so, and felt much better once I woke up. The flight was smooth but very disappointing in one way; there’s a lot of beautiful scenery on that route but we could not see any of it, the sky was overcast all the way to San Diego.
It was a three-hour flight and I was getting hungry. I hated to do it but I bought the $4 snack special: I got crackers and cheese and a box of raisins. Oh, please bring back the good old days of real food on flights! While it wasn’t much of a meal, it took care of my appetite and I enjoyed the rest of the flight. It went smoothly, but we were ten minutes late when we landed. That’s trouble!
I had a one hour five minute layover, and had now lost ten minutes. It took another ten minutes before I could get off the plane and now I was in serious trouble. I was scheduled to take Alaska Air to Seattle: my problem was that I had arrived at Terminal Two, but Alaska Air flies from Terminal One.
At most airports this would not be a problem, but at San Diego it meant I had to exit the secure area, leave Terminal Two, go outside, walk down to Terminal One, and then clear security again. And I had less than 45 minutes until my flight departed, no more than 15 minutes until they started to board the flight.
Tick, tick, tick.
I walked as quickly as I could to Terminal One, my flight was at Gate 16. I got to the security check-in and saw two lines, one long and one short. Obviously I went to the short one and then heard the TSA lady screech “First Class only! First Class only!” Almost half the people left her line and got on the increasingly long one.
Tick, tick, tick.
I was going to leave the line too but then I saw the sign that said the line was for “First Class passengers and passenger with Elite Status.” Great!
I immediately pulled out my American Airlines Platinum card and presented it to the TSA lady. Rather than checking me through, she decided this was the perfect time for her to instruct the lady checking in people on the longer line.
“Remember what we were talking about in our meeting on Tuesday?” she asked. “This is an example of it. Here is an American Airlines boarding pass for an Alaska Air flight. You need to study this so you can recognize it when you see it. And he has elite status with American but not Alaska Air.”
Tick, tick, tick.
Uhh, maybe you just need to be a school teacher later and let me get to my plane now…
Thankfully, she read my mind and wished me a good day. By the time I got to gate 16 they had already started the boarding procedure. No time to take pictures, no time to even visit the rest room.
Lesson learned: you need a longer layover in San Diego if you have to change terminals. It’s even worse if you fly in on American Eagie, they use a terminal at the other side of the airport and you have to take a bus to get to the main terminal.
Since I have Platinum status with American Airlines, Alaska assigned me to aisle 6, the first row in coach, and the row with the greatest amount of leg room. The plane was only 60 percent full, so everyone boarded quickly and we pushed back from the terminal as soon as everyone was seated.
Alaska Air flies the Boeing 737 and the planes seem to be much newer than the MD-80s that I so frequently fly on American; even in coach we had comfortable leather seats. Our flight to Seattle went very smoothly, and, best of all, we arrived ten minutes early. Great! That gave me an hour and twenty-five minutes in Seattle, I might even have time to eat!
I went to the Pacific Marketplace, the giant food court in the terminal area.
After my bad luck at getting my food choice two weeks earlier at Anthony’s, I decided to eat at one of the most famous seafood restaurants in the Seattle area, Ivar’s.
They don’t have a full-scale restaurant at the airport, but do have a fish bar when you can order small meals to eat in the food court, or to take with you on your flight.
Since we arrived early, I had enough time to eat my meal in the food court and relax a little.
I love the views from the Pacific Marketplace: very few airports can equal the spectacular view of flight operations that passengers can get at Sea-Tac.
After finishing my meal, I went towards my gate.
Two weeks ago my flight from Seattle to Chicago was delayed. This time everything went smoothly as we boarded.
We left Seattle a few minutes early and had a smooth flight to Chicago, getting in at 8:20. At 9:35 I was on my flight back to Austin.
It was a quiet flight, the plane was 70 percent empty and I had the exit row to myself. As we flew across the middle of America, I could see storms to the east with powerful lightning flashes. The next day I found that those storms had unleashed tornadoes that had killed more than 20 people.
We landed in Austin at 12:20 a.m., eighteen hours after my flight had left that morning. I was home safely by 1:30.
It had been another long day, but I got home on time and earned over 11,000 miles. I now have over 125,000 miles in the account, which means I have covered the cost of one of the Business Class tickets to Australia and Thailand. Now I just need to do it again!