Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Frequent Flying 2007: Still at 1K

Well, I ended 2007 with 101,104 "miles", maintaining my United 1K status. I put the word "miles" in quotation marks, because I actually flew 76,993 "BIS" miles. BIS? "Butt in seat". I got bonus miles (not actually flown) from my Visa card, one trip in business class, carryover from 2006 and United's policy of awarding a minimum of 500 miles for each flight. (I lost miles from one flight where there was a stop that was ignored by United's computations, because there was one flight number.)

I actually flew slightly more than that for two reasons. One, which is kind of pedantic, is that these numbers are based on the minimum distance between airports, and actual flight plans are longer. The second point is that I flew on two trips (Dulles-San Juan and Singapore-Kuching) where I didn't earn miles -- the first because it was a free ticket, the second because there was no way to earn United miles on the trip.

In 2006, it took me 95,642 BIS miles to get to 1K. Maybe in 2008, I can do it with 70,000...


Monday, December 17, 2007

Mileage Run

Well, I've packed my bags for a trip to nowhere. Or Las Vegas, depending on your perspective. Recently, I calculated my total "Elite Qualifying Miles" on United Airlines, and I discovered that I was going to end up with 96,972 at the end of the year. (For reasons documented a year ago, that's more miles than I actually am flying.) What to do?

One option, through the bizarre calculus of frequent flier programs, was to spent 40,000 "earned" miles to get 4,000 EQM and put myself over the top. But 40,000 miles is a lot. It's more than enough for a flight to the Caribbean or Hawaii, and almost enough for a flight to Europe or South America.

So a $198 fare to Vegas -- that gets me more than 4,000 EQM and 8,000 "earned" miles. And I can fly there during the day and come back on the redeye. Only eight-and-a-half hours on the ground in Vegas. I could have had a quicker turnaround, but if my outgoing flight was late, I could miss my return flight!

So what to do with my eight-and-a-half hours in Las Vegas? Well, by the time I get out of the airport, catch a cab, and account for enough time to get back early enough to make my return flight, conservatively, I'm down to five-and-a-half hours. I identified three priorities:

  • Enjoy a buffet.
  • Do some geocaching and waymarking.
  • Play the nickel video poker machines at the Las Vegas Hilton.

Hmm, even with the monorail to zip me from location to location, that seemed a little tight. So when I did on-line check-in today, I decided to standby for the early morning flight. That'll add 4.5 hours to the whole deal, and if I wake up tomorrow morning too tired to drive to the airport, I can go on-line and cancel the standby.

I said my bags are packed, but really it's just a backpack. I have a book, some spare clothing in case I get stuck, and various electronic goodies. I've transferred about fourteen-and-a-half hours of video to my iPod -- in retrospect that seems like overkill. I bought a battery backup for the iPod that allows me to use AA batteries. I have my phone for Internet access (I may annoy subscribers to this blog with frequent updates) and my camera and GPS for geocaching/waymarking. I have Lonely Planet Las Vegas Encounter and a printout of Wikitravel Las Vegas which I'll pit against each other for usefulness.

Wish me luck!

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Friday, November 30, 2007


That's International First Lounge, of course. I managed to snag an upgrade to First for today's trip, so my first ever international first-class trip starts off not with the Red Carpet Club, but with the IFL. So far, the advantages seem to be:

  • Better food. They even have Cherry Coke!
  • Better service. While I was getting the better food, a guy came up to me and made sure I had seen the tiny vials of soy sauce that went with the sushi.
  • Free wireless access. It's kind of funny, given how much people are paying for some of these tickets compared to the cost of wireless access, but this may be my favorite feature.
  • Isolation. There are about 100 chairs in here, and I think 3 or 4 passengers. On second thought, this may be my favorite part. :-)

Given the parts of this that I'm enjoying, my suspicions that I'm not high-class enough to partake of this on a regular basis are being confirmed. Just as well, as I'll probably be "stuck" in business class on the return flights. (Cough.)


Friday, December 22, 2006

Now I'm 18K...and 1K...

Well, the American Go Association's new ratings are out, and my rating is finally up to 18 kyu! I was 10-7 in tourneys I entered as 19 kyu. I hope I can do well enough at my new ranking to earn another promotion. I was going to enter one last weekend, but the lack of a new ranking, combined with being exhausted after getting back from China with a cold, dampened my enthusiasm enough to keep me from going. My next tournament will either be the end of January (if I feel like driving down to Richmond) or the beginning of February.

In other news, I've earned Premier Executive 1K status on United Airlines. What is 1K status? Well, originally United only had two characters to signify status, so 1K=100K=100,000 miles. I like to think of 1K as "1 thousand hundred miles". So did I really fly 100,000 miles this year? That seems like a lot (around the world 4 times). Not really. United gives a minimum of 500 miles for each segment flown. That policy padded my stats a little, but the real bonus is the 150% credit for first and business class. (There was one penalty, where if you take a 1-stop, United only gives you credit for the direct routing. That cost me 70 miles.) I added everything up, and by the end of the year (after flying back from Arizona), I will have actually flown "only" 95,960 miles. The new status is, I think, what got Christina and me upgraded on our flight out here to Arizona, so it already seems to paying dividends.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Call Me Diamond Jon?

In my continuing quest to achieve "elite" status with Hilton, I finally made it to diamond level. This has a few advantages over my previous gold level. I get a 50% bonus on points (as opposed to 25%), better treatment at European Hiltons (so I hear), and perhaps most importantly, no blackout dates on award stays.

Hilton recently implemented a "rolling" qualification method for their elite levels. It boils down to a requirement of posting 60 or more nights in 13 months. A key here is the word "posting." If you stay on the last day of a month, your stay won't post until the following month. But because Hilton gives you 13 months instead of 12, you can't really complain to them.

I ended up posting 60 nights between February 2005 and this month. I added it up, and that comes from 19 nights in the UK, 14 nights in San Diego, 10 nights in Minnesota, 6 nights in Paris, 6 nights in San Juan, 2 nights in South Carolina, and one night each in Louisiana, New York, and Maryland.

Maryland? Yes, Maryland. I knew I needed one last night to qualify for Diamond, so last weekend, Ben, Martin and I braved the snowstorm for an evening of gaming at the Embassy Suites BWI. A week later, the stay posted, and voila, I was diamond.

I don't expect to see much difference in upcoming stays -- the 50% point bonus will be nice, but right now I've got Hilton points coming out of my ears. The lack of blackout dates will be very handy when Christina and I plan our next vacation -- I will just need to secure free plane tickets, and then away we go. And I'm looking forward to seeing if the new status scores me some upgrades when I go to Europe in April.


Thursday, October 07, 2004


I mentioned FlyerTalk in my previous post. It's frequent flyer discussion site. If anyone would be particularly amused by looking at my posts, you can see them here.


Flying the Ted Skies

For last week's trip to Arizona, we, as is our wont, flew United. For the BWI to Denver segments, I upgraded us into first class, which was a nice perk. For the Denver to Phoenix segments, we were on Ted, United's discount carrier. This was our first experience with Ted, but I thought it would be OK, especially since I didn't have enough upgrades for those segments anyway.

The Denver to Phoenix Ted flight was just like a regular United flight, without a first class cabin (which made getting on and off the plane easier), with orange headphones, where they would only give you half a can of soda (probably more than I need anyway), and where the overhead vent didn't really work. The last was annoying, but I'm not sure we can blame that on Ted.

The return trip was a different story. Apparently the original Ted aircraft wasn't available, so our plane was replaced by a non-Ted plane. And we got a complimentary upgrade! It was just like being in first class on a regular flight, except they would only give you half a can of soda...

Anyway, to prove I've actually flown in first class on Ted to the folks at FlyerTalk, here's my boarding pass... (Name and frequent flier number removed to protect my secret identity...)

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Monday, May 03, 2004


Since I know that Christina will soon be posting to her newly created travel blog (I'll link to it when it goes live), I'll save the details of the trip for her to report. Instead I'll concentrate on the minutitae of travel that consume me...like what airline we ended up on.

For some reason, I could only get Christina a free ticket to Switzerland on Lufthansa. I am restricted to booking American (the nationality, not the brand) airlines, but I was able to book the flight on the way over as a United codeshare. By the warped logic this sort of thing goes by, that counts. On the way back, they routed her via Boston, a feat I was unable to duplicate. So she'll be on her own once we get to Frankfurt.

Though I had flown Lufthansa on intra-European flights before, I had never flow it across the pond. All in all, it was fairly nice. The check-in agent took our old seat assignments (in separate rows of the plane) and gave us some crew rest seats I guess they decided they didn't need. They were standard economy seats (i.e., not very comfortable), but they were window and aisle in a 2-4-2 combination. All in all, very survivable.

The Lufthansa "Senator's Club" in Frankfurt was a nice place to relax, although there was more smoking than you'd get in an American facility. They had a room with lounge chairs, which was a nice way of relaxing after the plane. Our flight to Zurich was fairly empty, and I slept through it.