29 September 2010

Miles and miles and miles. . . .

Since I am focused on earning flight miles, one may ask if I ever use any of the redeemable miles that I earn.  Surprisingly, the answer is yes.  You may not think that I would waste an opportunity to earn flight miles by taking a free trip.  For a long time, that was true.  But, once I had accumulated a million redeemable miles in my account, I decided that I should use them (for good reasons, of course) rather than let them sit and devalue over time.

Obviously, I have used miles for upgrades.  When I am out of Systemwide upgrade coupons, I switch to miles where I can for upgrading.  But have taken free trips as well over the years.  Generally, I have done it once a year.  Ususally it's for a trip where I can plan in advance, want to ensure that I am traveling in premium class for the trip, and my dates are pretty set (little flexibility).  Or it's because I've got plans to travel to a general area twice in a short period of time, and I don't feel like paying for two tickets. 

I think the first free ticket I ever used was to go to Auckland, New Zealand for a long weekend in First Class.  United was scheduled to end the route soon, so I wanted to take advantage while I could.  I also used a huge chunk of miles (400,000) a few years ago for a First Class trip flying around the world (that was quite a planning endeavor as I had planned the trip so as to be able to try and secure the flight segments just under a year in advance of the actual trip).

Having a lot of miles in the bank also allows one to try and use the system to one's advantage.  Often, when picking dates for a trip, the Saver Awards are not available yet.  But, the Standard Awards are available for booking -- they are the equivalent of buying a full fare ticket.    So, I'll go ahead and book the Standard Award.  I'll then just keep checking for the Saver Award availability.  If they become available, I'll then cancel and rebook.  As a 1k member, I don't get charged for returning miles back into the account.

I'll probably use up miles more now with the relatively new feature that you can upgrade just about anyfare with miles with a copay.  Nice when I am out of Systemwide coupons for upgrading and I can still earn flight miles.

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