27 June 2008

holiday recap, part 3: frequent flier finagling

looking up at tokyo city hall, made possible by a frequent flier ticket.

in this age of charging $15 to check one bag, accruing and using frequent flier miles is one of the last perks of american air travel. thankfully, i usually avoid u.s. carriers, but most of my miles are banked with the seattle-based alaska airlines. so, when booking international award travel on one of their partners, there are times when i must fly northwest, which is a remarkably horrible airline. i've complained about "flight attendants whose demeanor is more akin to correctional facility staff" before.

over the past four years, i've redeemed points for six "free" trips (korea x 4, brazil and japan). of course these flights aren't actually free. miles are accrued via travel, signing up for airline credit cards and by using them. but despite the rigamarole of playing air points, it pains me that most people don't take advantage of opportunities to bank miles for future travel. for example, some spread their miles over lots of different programs or use credit cards that are unconnected to any airline. you kill me!

while in san francisco, xtie and i visited the beautiful deyoung museum in golden gate park.

my recent "teasing jesus" holiday is a decent example of making the most of point redemption. typically i can find a northwest or cathay pacific ticket between seoul and north america for 60,000 points, but this time no luck. so i used 60,000 for tokyo to san francisco with a 2-week layover in seattle, and 20,000 on united to fly seoul<->tokyo. since airlines typically allow at least one free layover on award flights, it's good to find non-direct itineraries that put you in more places for the same price. in this case, i was able to see family in seattle and friends in sf on the same free ticket. i booked my seoul to tokyo ticket to allow for a day to putz around japan.

as mentioned in my recent "no summer of love" post, a mechanical mishap in sf made me miss my return flight to tokyo. sure, i was happy for the extra day in sf, but it was still the airline's error, so i requested a full refund of my 60,000 miles. they gave me 30,000 back (worth a half-trip to/fro asia), plus i received another 6,914 miles for my replacement trip to seoul via hong kong. while in the states, two other flights on partner carriers (i always try to fly partners) added another 1,829 miles to my account. finally, since i was re-routed through hong kong, i didn't use my return tokyo->seoul flight. that can be redeemed for up to a year from now.

this time around, my seattle sojourn included dinner with sue ellen, who's mom to my two godsons.

so... the upshot is that i spent 80,000 miles to see family and friends in japan and the usa, but earned most (48,743) of them back, plus another 10,000 on hold for a future trip to japan. this puts me close to another free asia<->north america ticket. on that note, i have my eye on a ticket from seoul to new york with a layover in paris or prague on air france (another partner)... seems like a good time to do some "free" europe/caucasus travel.

stay tuned and let me know if you need any help planning your own mileage trip.

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