Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Five Rules of Mileage Runing....

So...this is happening.
I thought it was time for a little enlightenment on the 'rules' of mileage runs, in the words of my favorite (now discontinued) safety video.  Bonus points for anyone who knows what I'm talking about, and double bonus points if you hate the new one as much as I do.

Additionally, this is probably a 'level 2' mileage running post, meaning there's a bit of flyer jargon and mileage nonsense used throughout.

Anyway, onwards:

1. There are so many places to go in this world, but only a few are a good deal.

I get asked all the time why I keep going back to Hong Kong, or why I ended up in Jakarta so often recently.  The challenge, or I like to think, fun, of the mileage lifestyle is in part that you book flights to far off places you never would have considered going.  And then, chances are, you go back.

The reason is that when you fly a specific airline or airline alliance, you go where they go.  More specifically, you go where they have too much inventory.  Empty seats = good pricing.  Obviously, other factors apply.  For instance, you'd pay more to go to Kuala Lumpur than to go to Lima, because the distance is the biggest factor in 'what it's worth'

People always ask me how I plan my trips, and besides checking around the internet, and any tips I might get from friends, knowing what cities are good candidates is the best place to start. For instance, what do these places have in common?

Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW)
Hong Kong (HKG)
Doha (DOH)
Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
Lima (LIM)

Answer: These are all 'homes' of Oneworld airlines.  American, Cathay Pacific, Qatar, Malaysian, and LANTAM, respectively.  What this means is that these airlines have a lot of flights, and therefore a lot of seats, to and from these destinations.  In addition, with the possible exception of Doha, these destinations are all served by more than one Oneworld airline, increasing the price competition. 

Now, for the next level of expertise, it's important to know a few places that either are seasonally under appreciated, or are popular connecting cities from the Oneworld hubs.  Bonus points if they also are places with weak currencies, which makes a stay there cheap, and a flight that originates there very cheap. 

Jakarta (CGK) - On JAL or Cathay Pacific
Johannesburg (JNB) - On British Airways
Cairo- (CAI) -On Qatar
Bogota (BOG) - On American
Panama City (PTY) - On American
Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) - On JAL or Cathay Pacific
Toronto (YYZ) - Is a good 'out of the box' place to start itineraries, especially to Asia.
Rapa Nui (IPC) -  (once in a blue moon, but it's a bucket list trip) - On LANTAM

Yes, in several of these places, you may need some situational awareness to travel comfortably.  However, with some good planning and/or making it a turn around with a longer stop at another city on the itinerary, they make for some good prices and fun trips.

Of course, with the new mileage and qualifying dollar system, these top destinations may change slightly, but even after the switch, I've still found myself being successful finding deals to many of my past places.

2. Secure your tickets first, and then assist other passengers.

In short, deals are only deals while they last.  Some fares my be dependent on the time they're booked, but the majority are influenced mainly by the number of seats being sold at a certain price.  For some deep discount flights, there may be only one or two seats available at that price. 

For example, I recently checked out a killer deal from Toronto (YYZ) to Shanghai (PVG).  While I was scanning around to see if I could find a weekend I was free to do the trip, the availability was quickly evaporating, with many dates going from $ $560... and onwards and upwards each time I refreshed the screen.

The Deal of the Day
The airline was likely only allowing a few passengers to book each flight at this rate, so as the rest of the travelers on the internet were jumping on this deal, it was going fast.  Still, the next fare 'bucket' up, in the $500s is still a good deal to Asia. 

The moral of the story?  Always get your tickets on hold or ticketed before sharing around the internet, if you're so inclined. Once a good deal hits 'the blogs,' it's just about gone.

3. Please take a moment to familiarize yourself with the features of your airplane.

It's a good idea to look further than just price when planning a trip.  It's key to get to know the types of planes, and the layout of the cabin before committing to spending some serious time flying in it.  The likelihood of upgrading, and the experience in general, have just about everything to do with the type of plane you're flying, and the crew you're flying with.  There is a very, very big difference in flying a 757 vs a 777-300 across an ocean. 

Google around for reviews of specific flights, there's a lot out there that can tell you what to expect.  Often the plane type or cabin interior (these differ also depending on the route on some airlines) may be what makes my decision for me.  There's also smaller details to know once you've booked, like what seats are know to be quietest on a given plane, or are best for flying with a companion, or even down to the best meal and drink options.

4. In the event of a quick turn, please leave all checked luggage behind.

It goes without saying that checking luggage on a long itinerary in the best of cases is risky if you actually need them when you land.  Add that to a convoluted, multi-segment itinerary, and you can pretty much give up hope.  Put directly- if you can't fit it in the overhead bin, you probably don't need it on a mileage run.  The above picture is the total amount of luggage brought by exactly four mileage runners, trekking all the way from across the US, to Jakarta, Bali, and back. 

Just make sure you have the essentials- a change or two of comfortable clothes, basic necessities, and most importantly, electronics & chargers with international compatibility.  Less is more.  I've flown with people who can go around the world with just a small backpack. 

5. Always know the nearest exit (strategy).

Plan for contingencies.  It's no surprise that if you're trying to hop around the world on a shoestring, through multiple airports, and across every time zone in a weekend, the unexpected may happen.  Everyone's all too acquainted with the occasional mechanical issue with a plane, or airport tarmac delays.  In general it's best to have a few contingency plans in mind. 

If you have a tight connection, or a late arrival, it's good to know if there's a cheap airport hotel you can get on points, or a 24 hour airport lounge. Where possible, I also like to try to not be on the last flight of the night, on the chance I can get moved to a later flight, and still continue on my trip on the same day.

Remember the most important rule of ticketing- you can always stop and go home mid-itinerary, forgoing the last flight(s), but you CAN NOT skip an earlier segment, and pick up the rest of the trip.  If you try this, the rest of the trip will automatically cancel! 

So, if you have DFW-HKG-LAX-DFW booked, and you happen to live in Los Angeles, and are feeling done with the trip, you can walk out of the airport and head home with the only consequence being giving up the miles you would have earned for that last segment.  However, if you were flying DFW-LAX-HKG-DFW, you can't decide to start the trip in LAX, you would have to go to DFW because that's where the ticketing starts.  If you don't show up for that flight, the rest will be cancelled.

Whew...that ended up longer than I anticipated, but I hope some of  it is helpful!

Thank you for reading, I'm glad you're here.

Happy Flying,


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