Monday, November 10, 2014

Let's Do That Again....

Yes, this picture I took of 'AA through the years' at ORD hangs in my office.  Don't judge....
As it's the opening week of my Mileage Season, I'm obliged to honor my tradition of posting the layout of my travel plans on the way to 100k and EXP status for 'One More Year.'  This will be the fourth time I've said 'One More Year,' for those keeping track at home.

I thought last year's mega-mileage runs would cure me of this hobby.  I mean, booking yourself 48 solid flight hours over a long weekend should logically deter a reasonable person from wanting to get back on a plane for the foreseeable future.  But, as has been made clear, mileage runners aren't reasonable people.  At least not about this.

Honestly, even with the jetlag, the hours in economy seating, warmed-over food, Chinese smog in Shanghai, and questionable connections in snowstorms, I had a blast.  I met new people, saw things and places I didn't even know I was looking for, and learned to navigate cities and airports as foreign as they come.

So, in four short days, I'm off on the first of this year's two long-haul runs.... and I can't wait.  

I think 'Donkey' said it best...

As any mileage runner who's in it for the status level knows, the adventure can be a by-product of the goal of reaching 25, 50, or 100k miles.  So, for those wondering where the mileage runs are this year, and why, here's an overview of this season's itineraries-

This season is comprised of two long weekends headed West over the Pacific from Dallas to various destinations in Asia.  Weekend one is the longer of the two, coming in at around 22,600 elite qualifying miles, with a flight path from LAX-DFW on the red eye to meet up with a mid-morning nonstop to Hong Kong.  I then have a night at an airport hotel, before heading out the next morning from HKG to Jakarta, Indonesia.  There's about 8 hours on the ground there, enough time to go relax a little at a close-by Sheraton resort (on points, of course), before an overnight flight to Tokyo Narita.  Then about twelve hours of daylight time there to go into the city and see a few things, before hopping on the return NRT-DFW-LAX trip back home again.  Simple, right? 

The flights look like this:
via Great Circle Mapper.  Sidenote- the circumference of the Earth is only slightly longer than this run.

What's fun about this run is that it allows some time on the ground in each city, but not so much that the time changes start to get disruptive.  I don't have any specific plans of where to go during the stopovers, so I can relax, or not.  Secondly, I'm really looking forward to getting back to the NRT airport lounge.  Last season I had a great layover there including a nice massage, shower, and some fantastic food and drink.  Plus, the premiere lounge in HKG, 'The Wing,' is constantly in the running for the best airport lounge in the OneWorld system.

As for the other bits of intrigue about this run- the outbound is on AA's 777-300er, which I've previously reviewed.  It's AA's biggest and shiniest plane, at least in the forward cabins. If you're lucky enough for an upgrade to clear, is a fantastic way to sleep away a 16+ hr trans-pacific flight.  The inter-asia flights are on Cathay Pacific and JAL, both of whom offer fantastic service, even in economy.  The longer leg on JAL up to Tokyo is being flown on a large plane, and reports from other mileage runners are coming back that it's nearly empty, letting passengers spread out and take rows to themselves- the economy traveler's 'lie-flat suite.'

The second weekend is a simpler riff on the first.  It's a two night trip to Hong Kong, with time for a stay at the Sheraton in the city.  I'll hopefully have just finished qualifying for SPG Platinum status by then, so hoping for lounge access and a nice upgrade.  No actual appointments, so free to stay on my original timezone if I choose.  The flight path originates in ORD, so I found some milesaver award positioning flights to accommodate.  All in all, the flights look like this:

Also, for comparison's sake, here's the links to previous years' posts on this topic can be found here:
2013 (Johannesburg, ZA and Shanghai)
2012 (Four times to Boston and back)
2009 (NYC and Boston) (yes, my first entry!)

Since I always see people who are curious about mileage running, or deciding whether it's worth it, or if they're finding good deals, asking about it I'll lay out the nuts and bolts of the 'mileage math' for these runs.  They were similar in price, both sub-5 cents per mile ("cpm"), and as I had a $400 voucher from last year when I took a flight change at AA's request, I was able to get a combined 3.5 cpm for the 40,504 elite-qualifying miles these trips will net me.  (yes, that number's even a palindrome, has to be good luck!)  With the status-based doubling for redeemable miles I'm earning 81,008 at 1.7cpm to put towards future travel or upgrades.  Even without the voucher, most people would consider these flights decent mileage runs for status.

'Congratulations, your mileage runs come with a free first class trip to Urubamba, Peru!'
As an example of what this many miles can get you, I took the miles I earned last year and booked myself and Mrs. CruisingAltitude on LAN's 1st class flights to Lima, Peru and onwards to Cusco to go to the Sacred Valley next year at a rate of 60,000 miles per ticket round trip.

Paying cash for these would start at around $4,000.  So, in this example those 60,000 miles earned at 1.7cpm means the ticket 'cost' just over $1,000.  Even this is over-priced as the mileage runs were also a way to gain all the benefits of Executive Platinum status, which on their own far outweigh the cash spent on the tickets.  In a sense, the trip to Peru is a fun side effect of making status.

I booked us at the Tambo Del Inka Resort in Urubamba.  Rumored to be one of the most beautiful SPG properties in the system.  Also one of the best of this level for cash & points redemptions, making stays here start at $110 per night + points.
Indoor/Outdoor pool and spa at Tambo Del Inka.  The resort also features its own train station on the line to Machu Picchu.
Okay....I've probably lost 90% of readers at this point.  For the 10% of you who still care, there's more rambling on this subject on [this post] from last year.  Good luck.

At this point in my mileage running career, I keep wavering between being a little sheepish about it all, and wanting to share my adventures.  One thing that constantly surprises me is how many people actually want to learn about it, even if only to comment on how ridiculous it is.  As mileage season generally lines up with the holidays and time spent with family (most of whom we have to fly to see), I usually end up recounting the latest set of adventures on these visits.  There was enough discussion of it last year after I got back from my JNB  and PVG runs that the first holiday toast (not given by me) was aptly concluded with:

 "....And my flight to be with you all tonight cost me $500 round trip, but it came with about 3 new sweaters."

Sounds like a decent deal to me.

Until the next flight,


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