Archive | April, 2014

HKG / SIN 4/9/2014 – 1m miles part 1

14 Apr

1m mile trip part 1 intro

A personal letter from United* (yeah sure)

Dear Daniel,

We are excited that you are approaching a remarkable milestone: flying one million miles with United® and MileagePlus®. Once you are a 1 Million Miler, you will enjoy benefits that reflect your accomplishment, including status that will not fall below Premier® Gold.*

We look forward to welcoming you as a 1 Million Miler in the near future.
Dan S

Get ready to be a 1 Million Miler

*with an asterisk.

The Quest:

Is it possible to go to the other side of the world to have dumplings in 2 famous cities and back, staying in decent hotels for less than $175 and an unknown number of frequent flyer miles? Welcome to dan’s Hong Kong/singapore adventure. we’re going to find out.

The History.
a long time ago (I believe 1995) i had a business opportunity on the left coast. Up until that point i flew tower air. It was the worst! they only flew 747’s (which was nice) but they were serial numbers 1-5. the ones that only had 3 windows on the upper deck – i don’t even think they had a dash after the number, in a word: ancient. they had terrible processes and rude crews (they were israeli, so it was ok). The cheapest ticket in the sky but you just had to accept that fact that if the plane left on the same day the ticket was for, it was on time (that is NOT an exaggeration). Tower flew from JFK to OAKland.

tower air had another attribute that worked. the place ‘s’ and i worked at was at the end of the runway at oakland airport. we worked push/pull. he would spend two weeks on the left coast managing this huge project, then i would fly out, take over and he would go back. we called the time there, “in the barrel”, it was said that we would dosi-doe at the airport. From the lab, you only had to look out the window and if the tower air tail was at the airport, you had a few hours to get over there, meet sam, discuss the issues for the next two weeks, hop on or off the plane and go. Well tower air went out of business and it was time to pick a REAL airline to fly. i was a delta flyer, but they were kinda pricey, so i tried united.

My first united flight was delayed due to a mechanical problem. but something interesting happened – they made a prompt and honest announcement and gave their assessment. What is this? an airline NOT treating me like a fragile parcel being unloaded from the top shelf of a UPS truck? I was so impressed with how united handled what went wrong, and their price on the JFK/SFO run that i joined their FF program. i’m sure i missed joining the first couple of flights, but that announcement about ‘frequent flyers earn 2586 miles for this trip) caught my attention. When i found out that you could trade those miles for upgrades and sit in the big seats in the front of the plane (how DID those people do it?) i was hooked.

and what wouldn’t i do to get those ‘free’ upgrades to the big seats in the front? credit cards that got miles, YES! 19 years later, i realize that airports are the bus stations of the middle class. i have too many frequent flyer miles in the bank and the airlines are devaluing the currency. why should this be any different than the US peso, or any other currency? Since i can’t diversify my ffm assets, i decided to fly a lot. I’ve flown on A380’s, I’ve flown on 787 Dreamliners (while they were catching on fire)-even got a cockpit tour by two senior pilots! and every other plane you can imagine. and in every class. I have my memorable flights.

I flew a 787 dreamliner from newark to houston to San Fran to houston to newark on New Year’s Day last year – just to be a part of history. Since i foolishly missed my chance to fly on the concorde, i figured i’d lock this one in. It was noteworthy because when we landed in San Fran, 7 policemen rushed in, stopped short and looked around and said “damn this is a nice plane” (it is), and then went back to coach and arrested a woman and took her off the plane in handcuffs. When I reboarded i asked the flight attendant what the story was. Apparently she bought her ticket on a stolen credit card – and it wasn’t the first time. How foolish — to buy a ticket on a stolen credit card and not buy first class! but i digress – back to the adventure at hand.

This trip is noteworthy not only because i am using some of my miles to travel first class 1/2 way around the world and back (it feels like for free) and pay for decent hotel rooms, but because on this trip, i will hit 1 million lifetime miles. A dubious achievement, to be sure, but one that has great perks, priority boarding, not getting nickled and dimed for baggage and other stuff for the rest of my life (or until they change it). with some airlines charging even for advanced seat reservations, it’s a good thing.